Broumov, Czech Republic
2 October 2002
This, of course, is the first installment, and really a test, of my newsletter group. I know, a few weeks ago, I blasted out a general e-mail concerning this group.. so now it's time for the piper to pay the bill and produce something! So I've split this newsletter into several sections. Scroll to the section you like or read the entire newsletter!
Section I: Daily Life
Section II: Current Projects
Section III: Upcoming Events
Section IV: Fun and Entertainment
As all of you know I am here in the lovely Czech Republic clinging to the bottom of a ancient sea bed while I spend most of my time volunteering for the Centrum Broumov. Broumov is a small village just a few short kilometers from Poland in the central Northern part of the Czech Republic. This first month has been spent mostly integrating into the new lifestyle, getting to know people and setting the rhythm for the day. I live in a small apartment with two other volunteers whom are also working for the Centrum Broumov on separate projects. The apartment is just a short 5 or 10 minute walk from the Pivovar and offers a very nice view of the surrounding countryside, thanks to the elevated nature of the apartment, we're on the 5th floor!
Recently I've settled on a schedule that includes getting my silly ass out of bed at about 7:00 or 8:00 to eat some breakfast. Normally some oats soaked in milk, bread, yogurt and fruit. Most of my work involves surfing the Internet, but unfortunately it is expensive to do this during the day so I have been relegated to performing this part of my job between 18:00 and 6:00. So, as most of you may have already guessed, I find myself down here at the Pivovar in the afternoon and work until late. If I decide to head down to the Pivovar in the morning I usually find myself here until about lunch time, 12:00 - 13:00. About this time I make my way back to the apartment, but sometimes stop at the local store for additional food, to cook. The afternoon and evening diet usually consists of selection of rice, potatoes, beans, pasta, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, apples,
the periodic banana, onions, garlic, bread and other random stuff that I can, sometimes, identify in the store. The Czech are really big on potatoes, onions and garlic, usually served with some sort of meat. So these items are practically given away, good thing I like potatoes! After cooking lunch I try to go for a walk as my exercise. From the apartment I can make a nice walk into the beautiful Czech countryside for as long as I'd like, but normally for an hour or two. On some days I spent shaving my head and face, usually every other day, or doing pushups and taking a shower on other days.
If I have time in the afternoon before I begin to cook dinner I relax by reading or writing some postcards or letters out to various people. Normally I have cooked way to much food for lunch and just re-heat whatever I have remaining for dinner. Sometime between 18:00 and 19:00 I make my way back down to the Pivovar to begin working. Mostly it's just myself, but sometimes there's other people here doing a variety of things. A few weeks ago we had a German - Czech artist group here so periodically someone from their group would come in to check e-mail or ask for some sort of technical assistance.. which offers a nice break from hacking on the computer alone for hours on end. Depending on what's happening I'm usually here until at least midnight, though the other night I was falling asleep at the computer, so I cut out at about 23:00.
I have a variety of projects I will be working on while I am here. First is the maintenance of the organization's database. What a piece of work this thing is. Making technical improvements to the database, more efficiently utilizing the available technology, updating their small computer network, updating their connectivity to the Internet, establishing a communication network between local NGO's and other related government agencies, being a technical advisor of sorts, helping with the website, training and anything else they can beg, borrow or plead out of me. I have recently discovered that I may have the opportunity to teach a class at the local school. More information to come as it becomes available.
This weekend I'll be heading to Praha to meet with our webmaster and some lady at the US Embassy. The webmaster wants to do some updating on out website so I am curious about his plans. The meeting with the US Embassy is concerning funding, so I'll see how this all works out shortly.
Because I am here on a 30 day tourist visa I periodically need to leave the country to renew the stamp in my passport. A few weeks ago I decided to head to Poland to surprise my friend Luiza. She lives about 40 minutes via train from Warsaw. So this past Friday I got on a very slow moving train that crossed into Poland. The first leg of the trip was to Warclaw.. about 110km away. This particular trip is listed to take 2 hours 45 minutes. I use to be able to ride a bicycle at this speed.. but the train took much longer! Well over 3 hours, aye! So I missed my connection from Warclaw to Warsaw. Not to worry, I just caught the next train, but it happened to be some special train.. where they charge silly Americans without the proper ticket a lot of Zloty! 92.8 Zloty to be precise.. this is about $30.00. Arrrgh, just a little frustrating is all. What was really nice about the entire experience was that two very pleasant Polish women tried to help me with the ticket issue. They argued long and hard with the ticket agent on the train, but in the end I had to pay. Oh well, it was really nice of them to try. Which brings me to a interesting fact. A lot of people do not have too many kind words to say about the Polish, particularly the Polish, but this is really untrue. The Polish can be a lot of fun, very friendly and helpful. I was very thankful to meet some more nice Polish on the train, we had a great time chatting and improving my Polish accent. The time with Luiza was very nice. Her family is very generous. It was a very pleasant, tranquil weekend spent walking the streets of Warsaw, reading, listening to music, chatting, going on walks, cooking and having a general good time.