Friday, December 23, 2011

Train Pace

Reliable in all weather, it is our preferred mode of transport. It is comfortable, on time (to the minute or they post the exact amount of delay.) One cannot beat the view or the process.

You come on-board and get moving the very moment at a nice steady pace. Without realizing, you are out of the city and zooming through the country (at a speed that you know will get you to your destination as soon as possible.) Then there is the gentle roll in the middle of mountains where the slow passing of scenery is better than any landscape painting and at a pace that compliments the peacefulness in life. (If it snows this is even more exaggerated.) This steady pace of life feels natural. 

The sounds consist of gentle rumbling/humming/clanking of metals, a periodic bell off in a distance as we pass through some small station or another, the breathing of fellow passengers, an occasional horn of warning and silence (as if in a sacred place or the library.) 

With a family it is ideal. You can relax, snack, play games, have quality time, and there is of course than human necessity, the restroom. This pace is one that suits me at this point in life. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pulnocni/Midnight (referring to Midnight Mass)

I can't resist posting this song even here, Vaclav Nektar's "Pulnocni." This new Czech hit from Vaclav Neckar is for this holiday season. (An icon from Czech history and film, he suffered a stroke not too long ago.) The song talks of hope and comfort in times of fear of the unknown. (In a sense I think it also faces the ultimate unknown, death.) This is not to be morbid but it is a reference to our common end and to me feels somehow reassuring. With my fathers-in-law passing along with that of Vaclav Havel's and being in the presence of dying folks at hospitals, I feel this song now on many levels.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lights of Praha

This time we are in the city to just enjoy the holiday season! (No paperwork, no running around, no meetings and it shows I think.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

the honeymoon- and post honeymoon

You know that time when new energy and love fills your heart and romance takes you to places unseen. This is like the first few weeks in a new place. The beauty, (one overlooks, the dirt,) the sunshine, (one overlooks the clouds,) etc,etc. There is a braking point in that new vision after one starts noticing the rest of reality. The not so sunny days, the smoggy air, those little things that should flow within the day but don't. If one is not careful this new vision clouds the old and one goes in an opposite direction.

This morning was that time. I started romanticizing our last 'home' in the suburbs of Seattle. One starts missing the things that were there and are not so much here, (mostly the clean air.) But the reality is there are simultaneously 'good'/'bad' and really things just are without judgement.

Here is a list of unedited items that surround me presently:

Twin beds stacked next to one another to make a queen size bed that fits us all (2adults, 1child)
 -morning and nighttime cuddles are readily available as is the accidental kicking throughout the night.

Keeping in touch with faraway friends, and trying to establish new relationships
-neighbor (somewhere in her 70's), currently one of my best friends in the CZ, finally someone to share a cup of tea!

History, history, history- it's within the exteriors of most buildings
-interiors however are quite the clash with the outer atmosphere. Modern era design fills the younger generation's homes.

Clean mountain air of Jesenik is just a few hours away from that of Olomouc, Zlin and other moravian cities where chimneys line the horizon.

Lard, beer, and dumplings make up more of my diet rather than my shakes of spinach, blueberries and bananas. (Thankfully the latter is still included!)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

the food

I need to devote an entry to the Czech cuisine. It is divine!

 A pomelo sized dumpling stuffed with plumb butter topped with poppy seed and sugar mix all floating in a bowl of vanilla custard. (SERIOUSLY!) And no, this is not a desert, this actually is the main course! (I have to stop myself from ordering this but once a week.)

I am slowly coming to the Czech conclusion that beer is somehow healthy for me. We now have it with almost every lunch, as it costs almost as much as water. (That's right, LUNCH not dinner, but somehow this is the new norm.) I now crave the bitter taste almost as much as chocolate! Yikes! I almost forgot the goulash. Soup is the appetizer of every lunch.

And the classic, Rizek or Schnitzel. Cooked in lard, a piece of pork or chicken, pounded to a centimeter,  tastes fantastic with a few drops of lemon and baked potatoes. (Also can be eaten on it's own, warm or cold.)

One slight downfall however to the above dishes along with a couple of other staple Czech foods, is that this about wraps up the Czech cuisine. (I do not have an image of "Knedlo, Zelo, Vepro," or dumplings with cabbage and pork, another classic.) This is why we spent an arm and a leg on some Indian Food in Praha yesterday, a nice brake from this Eastern European cooking.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

glimpses from childhood

Elevator in my apartment building- It barely fits four people if they squeeze shoulder to shoulder. One can touch the doors of each floor as it rides by. As children we got stuck half way between floors. Our downstairs neighbor pulled us through a small opening from the lower level.

Pavement- My sister and I walked hand-in-hand to grandmother’s house through these streets when I was two or three. I remember watching the cracks. 

Light festival- As children we walked with wooden sticks that held paper lanterns which enclosed a candle. (Currently from a parent perspective, this does not sound like a very smart idea.) But as children I remember the magic of holding that light. Miraculously it never caught on fire.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A few steps behind

Emotions and posts whirl through me on a daily basis. By the time I sit to type a whole other phase of life has begun. I have to start from this moment.

Jedi Bill, Ali's (pirate) grandpa, Will's father, has passed away Monday evening in the Philippines. When he asked how to say grandpa in Czech, Ali responded, "deda." "Cool, like Jedi!" he exclaimed and it has been Jedi ever since. It is unreal as he was only in his 60's, but somewhat anticipated. (His health was in a poor state.) A calm presence, he will be missed to a degree not yet realized.

Concurrently, (not to be emotionally insensative with the massive event of the past paragraph,) plumbing in our apartment is being worked on so that the toilet doesn't leak, the washing machine no longer backs up into the kitchen sink with a thick lining of garbage, the tub no longer backs up if the water pressure is too strong. On Thursday the first load of my grandmother's belongings goes to recycling and I've started carving the first of the 120 soaps.

We need to make another trip to Praha to meet with layers about our visas and find housing there within this month. (Have to request apostilles on all of our birth certificates.)

Parenting for now has gone out the window. Leapster and dad are the main source of teaching and entertainment  Hopefully some structure will resume in Praha.

Missing 'HOME' and missing William Dale Swanda.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving thanks

I jump back to a post from a month ago

(after we got rid of most of our material possessions), when I realized that a home for me means my relationships- the friends and family that I carry within me wherever I go.

I miss you the most this Holiday season. (Not to overlook my second favorite thing, eating a meal that has been prepared for me!) Neither Will nor I are fantastic cooks. Thankfully the local pubs are providing us with delicious meals. But it is not the same as when all of you are around the table.

Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving! 

PS. If you do read or glace at these pages off and on, I would love to hear from you, about anything and everything. Kisses

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Majestic Prague Castle

Thinking about how this castle came to be over centuries, a project one undertakes for a lifetime or more accurately over many lifetimes! What drives one to not only do the massive architecture but also the most minute details?

Friday, November 18, 2011

I’m amazed at the flexibility and strength of my daughter.

waking up in Praha

This month she shifted from one side of the world to another, has spent a week in Boston, a week in Zlin, a week in-between Praha and Jesenik. She has gone between English and a little Czech (or just communicating through body language.) And she has survived 24/7 with her parents! That alone is a huge accomplishment! I’m very proud of her.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I used to stare at this light as a child and it intrigues me today. I love its design, beauty, elegance and awkwardness. It is peaceful to look at, serene in it's three modes of light- the central light, the small side lights or all together. On days like these it is all I want to look at and think about.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

two weeks

the atmosphere is magical

9 trains
6 subways
6 buses
and many trolleys later we are home after crisscrossing the country from Zlin to Praha, Praha to Jesenik and Jesenik back to Zlin.

In this whirlwind we enjoyed Old Town Prague, I interviewed for an art teaching position, we managed to find Ali shoes at the train station after she jammed her foot between the platform and the metro and dislodged her shoe, spent lovely time with family in the mountains of Jesenik (where it remained -2 degrees Celsius throughout the week,) and spent some time observing the health care system which warrants an entry of it's own.

I'm happy to be back and regroup.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dad Time

On the train to Prague

A much needed play with daddy on a four hour train followed by two metros and one bus. Enjoying daddy in the daytime is a whole other experience that we all welcome. (It’s not an easy job but they are adjusting.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Enjoying FALL

There are several inches of leaves on the ground on every sidewalk. It is a soft cushion for the feet on top of a delicious crunchy sound I had not remembered since childhood.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Alenka Sustkova

When I told her I was naming my daughter after her, she responded with uncertainty. She had never liked her name, she admitted. In Czech “ka” at the end of the word makes it a diminutive and although it is a very sweet way to call a child, she went by Alena throughout her adult life. (I chose it particularly for the ka, for the sweetness of it as well as the pretty sound.)

She married Jaroslav Sustek around the age of twenty and bore two children. She changed her name as is common to Sustkova. “ova” at the end of a name means "in the clan of" or "in the possession of." I dropped the ova off of my name as soon as we immigrated as the ownership did not make sense to me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

beginning 1.1.11

Migrating Sisters, 4x2x2" Racu fired clay

My sister and I immigrated to the States as children in 1986 from what was then communist Czechoslovakia. The expressions are taken from the moment at the airport right before our departure sitting on top of a pile of six suitcases. The piece Migrating Sisters speaks of instability. At the same time, we have each other to lean on and have learned throughout our experience thathomeis just that, the support. This touching has been a part of my artistic practice ever since.

-at 33 I have returned for a yearlong art sabbatical to the country of my birth but one I had not resided in since I was a child. (My mother was the same age when we emigrated from then communist Czechoslovakia in ’86.) It feels like a poignant return on many levels.

-the history is overwhelming both public and private- communist, early modern sculptures supporting heterosexual family and work values line public squares. I find personal postcards and scraps of my grandmother’s past throughout her one bedroom apartment which I reside in. I will be delving into this personal history and documenting my grandmother’s items. (I am reminded of Leslie’s work from the Hooligan class.)

-I am reconstructing a home both literally and figuratively. With our migration I have never had attributed home to a space, place or country. (I more or less carried the notions ofhomewithin me.) And yet now returning, I am reminded of the first smells and tastes I had known and attributed to the only home I knew as a child, those of the Czech Republic.