Whispering Astronauts

My gentle bloggers,

I know it’s been a while since I have written anything and I apologize for that. I may sound like a broken record here but I feel the need to say it (again): You were warned. I have been quite busy, believe it or not, and so that is one of the reasons why I haven’t had time to sit down and write in the blog. Another reason is because I have been contemplating switching to Tumblr which makes for an easier interface and I can do more with the blog (like actually adding pictures and videos). WordPress is fantastic don’t get me wrong, but at the same time if you change one thing the entire system freezes up and looks at you as if to say, “Wait, you want me to do what?” I’ll keep you posted (literally) on if such a change will happen or not.

Updates: Classes have been going well. I have two film classes which have been very interesting. One is a detective film class where we have studied some of the great detective movies and stories through their earliest ages (Vidoq, Poe’s Murder in the Rue Morgue, and of course the titan himself, Sherlock Holmes). The second film class is an almost film noir one with a hint of mystery in there. To be honest, the two classes run together for me and at times I have trouble differentiating between the two. I would have to say that my New Tools for Digital Media class is my absolute favorite with Creative Writing coming in at a close second. Here we learn how to blog (how ironic) and use Twitter and other social media outlets. My teacher is a young man who works for a business that attempts to get small business’ into the social media world. He basically told us that he doesn’t want to teach from a textbook but would rather show/tell us how to get a job and use social media and writing in that job. Very tactful class in my opinion. As for Creative Writing, that may go without say. You all know I love to write and here is a class that challenges me to use a greater imagination than I thought I had. The teacher makes you break out of your comfort zone of writing (as in not using the same metaphors, similes etc. that you’ve been safe with in the past) and push to the verge if insanity of what you write. For example, my assignment this week is to take the symbol Lights and make that the meaning and essence of Unity. Oh, and you only get six sentences to prove your point. It’s these challenges that are pushing me to be a more well-rounded and fresh writer (I hope).

As for the daily grind in Prague, this weekend was a recovery weekend. No, I don’t mean from drinking or partying, but from the sicknesses that have swept through our apartments like a vicious wave. There were a few nights that we left the confines of our rooms, one to go to a school sponsored boat party. I know what you may be thinking, “Zach, are you even going to school? And what kind of school is this that invites it students to a party on a boat?” To that I would answer, “Well…the school made me go!” Other than that we have visited a few parks and a wine festival as well. Me being sick though, I could not fully enjoy the wine festival and decided this as a universal truth for a my own life: Don’t go to wine tastings when you can’t even smell. Prague has been good to us though weather wise in that it has been a sweltering 65-70 degrees every day (that’s like 23-24 degrees Celsius, I believe). This has helped us visit gardens and parks around the city that have provided us with stunning views. You can see some of the parks on my facebook page.

This weekend I leave for Berlin which I am excited for. My grandparents have been here as well as my mom and so it will be almost like a rudimentary pilgrimage to walk where they have walked. There will be pictures up and another blog post coming next week. So please save yourself the pains of waiting for my posts every waking hour and just be patient; they will come.

One final note, you may be wondering why I have titled this post “Whispering Astronauts”. Two reasons for that. One, I think it’s a catchy title because it could mean a lot, or it could mean very well nothing. Maybe it’s my creative writing rubbing off or maybe I’m just insane. Secondly, it’s also the title of my new blog that I have started on Tumblr. I wanted to give this blogging site a try but still have no real idea on what I want this second blog to be on. Sure it’s a challenge maintaining one blog but I wanted to try something different on another site. Nothing is on it right now but I’ll fill you all in when something comes to mind. If you have any ideas or suggestions I’m open to them and you can let me know. Thank you again for being so faithful. I love you all.

 

Zach

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From Vienna to Prague

Dobre den gentle bloggers! I apologize that it has taken me a while to update this (remember, you’ve been forewarned) but we were in Vienna for the weekend and I didn’t have access to a computer. But as you can well see I am alive and well and have seen incredible sights. Let us begin.

As I have already stated my group, which is quickly becoming my family, had the opportunity to travel to Vienna, the city of classical music, for the weekend. The bus ride there was a treat within itself as the outskirts of Prague gave way to a rolling landscape of farms, vineyards, and quaint European towns. It was a gorgeous day with blue skies and white billowy clouds marking our way towards Vienna. A part of me almost didn’t want to visit another city but instead stop the bus and walk through the stalks of corn and wheat that flanked both sides of the highway. A feeling of comfort and at the same time adventure swelled inside of me as we drove past the breathtaking landscape.

Soon though, the rural landscape formed itself into Vienna as we entered the majestic city. The sprawling Gothic architecture and the stunning sculptures and statues filled the city. Yet, despite all the beauty that was before me in one place, the service that I was most impressed with was the free water fountains. I know this might sound arbitrary back in the States, but here, free water is surly a rarity. It’s as if we live in a civilized desert. After settling in and seeing some of the minor sights, such as the churches and the main shopping area, our family retired to their hostels (sorry dad, we stayed in one). It was a long day of traveling and we were all exhausted.

The hostel that we stayed in was impressive and felt more like a three star hotel rather than what Hollywood makes European hostels out to be. Our room contained four bunks, a small desk, chairs, bathroom complete with a shower, sink, and toilet, and a fan. It was a quaint and resourceful place. The next morning we were up and headed to Schonbrunn Palace, the home of Maria Theresa, the most famous Austrian Empress (though she was never given that title), and another chap that I can’t remember the name at the moment.

The estate was sprawling containing a rose garden, zoo, massive fountains, and of course the palace itself. Inside the palace was breath-taking and I feel as though the beauty overwhelmed me to the point where I couldn’t fully understand what I was seeing. The gold lining all the portraits and ceilings; the ornate rugs and furniture; even the bathrooms themselves were made usually of ivory and gold. It truly, in every sense of the word, was a palace fit for an Emperor (or Empress). One of the more impressive and yet shocking facts that we learned was that we only visited 40 rooms of the palace during our tour and that there were over a thousand more elsewhere. It made sense, due to the fact that staffs ran anywhere between 500 – 2,000 members, but it still was an eye-opening number.

After visiting the shopping district again (every tourist needs to pick up something from Vienna) we headed back to the hostel for Neil’s 21st birthday. This usually can go without say so I will summarize: it was a great night and fun was had by all. It’s a memory that will be special to my friends here and I’m glad I had the blessing to share it with them in Vienna. After the birthday night we all boarded a train for Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. To be brutally honest, it was a dirty, poorly used town that I really have no desire to see again. The entire trip’s purpose was to get visas for us who don’t have them and we still left empty-handed. Fear not gentle blogger, I am getting ever closer to the sticker that will keep me here for more than 90 days. I should have it within the next couple of weeks if it is God’s Will.

The ride back to Prague was relaxing and enjoyed. We were served some drinks and naps were had all around. It rained mostly that day but it was a refreshing sight after walking around the city in such blistering heat for the past week. I must say, the country side is stunning no matter what climate it must bear. It seems that the colors burst when it rains, making the greens more lush. I’m sure, before too long, we will all be out there for a day, just to breathe in some cleaner air.

Currently I have just finished my first full day of classes and am exhausted. Nine hours of class is no laughing matter and sleep will be welcomed here soon. The classes that I am taking are exciting and I look forward to them next week. I am currently taking a Czech language class, a detective film class, a media tools class, a creative writing class, and finally a post-European seminar class. It is a nice mix and so far have been enjoyable, especially my creative writing class. All my professors are Americans which is, again, refreshing hearing the American English rather than the slight Czech undertone that most have in this school.

Well gentle blogger, it is getting late and I must retire to my bed. I really appreciate all your prayers and your faithfulness to this blog, even when I haven’t been. Till next time!

Zach

On Learning About Meals and Walking For Miles

Stop. I know what you’re thinking. “Zach, this is your second post of the day. How can such a fabulous and majestic writer as yourself write so much in one day? Do you even get out?” And I would reply gentle reader, “Prominte. Uh, Kde jsou toalety?” (I’m sorry. Uh, where is the toilet…because they’re not free). But in all seriousness I am just catching up on all that has happened in, what is hard to believe, three days.

Yesterday our guide and really only friend over here, Denisea, took us around the city and more specifically our school. I am beyond blessed to have such a gorgeous commute ever single day. The school is located in Old Town which is what you would expect a typical European town to look like; the narrow cobblestone roads, the towering buildings, the Gothic/Medieval designs, street vendors selling items you dare not ask “what’s in it?”. In fact, our school is right down the street from the Charles Bridge, a weeks worth of history and touring itself. It took us most of the day to travel around this area and become familiar with our school’s surroundings. I’ll be posting pictures soon so you can see what I mean.

Today was another beautiful day in Praha – The Threshold of Home (as I now like to call it. We were informed that is what Praha essentially means). Today Denisea took us to this amazing forested area that contained a rose garden, astronomy tower, and a stunning view over Praha.

I must note that shortly before this miles upon miles of a walk, we sat down for what was probably around an hour and a half lunch. I got to talking with Denisea and another girl in our group about meals and Denisea made it known that meals are a time for interaction and relaxation. She said that in America it is far too fast and she dislikes how the service rushes you out of your seat once you are finished. Here though, the waiters are slower and would probably receive a very small tip back home, if they were to receive one at all. They understand the value of having a meal together so they give you your space and check in on you only when they see you have finished. Even then it may take them a while to notice you are done or even return with your bill. It is great to know that having a meal here is more an event than a quick thing to check off before moving on.

To let you know there will be pictures up soon because I cannot find the words to describe to you how amazing the city looks and from the adventures in the forest. It was a tiring day and ended with us grabbing some pizza near our place and relaxing our weary feet. Tomorrow starts the first day of class at 9 in the morning so I will try to get back to you, gentle reader, as soon as I can. I love you all!

Zach

Praha – The Threshold To Home

Hey everyone! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to post something on here but these first few days have been hectic but excellent. I will try to stay more updated as a more concrete schedule starts to form for my life over here in Praha. But, let’s get started.

Let’s go back a few days and I’ll lead you on the journey I took to get here. Friday was the day I left. The morning seemed almost like a dream but here are some of the more important things. Neil Craft’s parents were nothing short of hospitable and a family away from home. Saturday morning we had a fantastic breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon and toast. From there we were on to Ohare Airport in Chicago with our only stops being lunch (which was brief) and a speeding tickets (which was also brief). As we drew nearer to the airport I was surprised that I wasn’t feeling what I thought would be waves on anxiety. With this being the first time out of the country, and not to mention my small fear of flying, I perceived this to be a more stressful event. I’ll spare you some of the minor details in the airport and just simply state that we boarded and left for London with out a hitch.

At around 12:00pm we arrived at London Heathrow Airport in the UK. The journey over wasn’t as terrible as I had assumed it would have been. In fact, I spent most of the time watching a sick-to-my-stomach-it-was-so-bad chick flick called “Something Borrowed”. I still hold to the opinion that this was absolutely the worst movie I have ever seen and I still despise every character in that film. London was primarily uneventful except for the rich accents and the constant “mate” being thrown around. I loved London (at least the airport part of it) and if I were to ever be blessed with the fame of a writer, I would move there in a heartbeat. Actually, now that I recall it a little more, there was one event that does stick out in my mind. While waiting for our plane to Praha we had the pleasure of meeting two girls, Lex and Gretchen. They were 21 y.0. who have just returned from a whirlwind tour of California and were departing for their home city of Amsterdam. Surprisingly they absolutely loved the United States and mentioned that the people there were so friendly. It wasn’t until I arrived here that I realized how much I would be missing the friendliness of our culture.

When we finally pulled up to the apartment that I would be calling home for the next three and a half months, I was suddenly overtaken with a small feeling of fear. We were by no means in the richest part of town but neither were we in the slums. I’ve come to realize that most of our area of town look like this, peach colored buildings marked with graffiti. It is not so much the graffiti you see on the History Chanel gangland shows with the silhouetted thugs. No, I feel as though this is more of an art than a vandalism. The first night out on the town was a night to remember. After much wondering around and grumbling stomachs we finally settled on a small pub a few blocks from our apartment. The establishment was great but somewhat pricey. We ate in what seemed to be the basement (it reminded me of the bar scene in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglorious Bastards”). There was one thing we learned that night and would not be soon to forget: it’s okay to say “no” to the waiter. We ended up paying for the side of fries and drinks that we didn’t want. Later that night we headed to Wenceslas Square and it was nothing short of stunning at night. It was a cool night I can remember and the square was lit up. A funny thing struck me though as we were walking down the street, confused and at times, amused, at the signs we read. That thing was, Praha seems to contain a darker side to it. When the shops close and the owners leave for tonight, a more hidden and possibly not as beautiful side lurks the streets and jostles you to join her. We refuse of course, but there is always that curious thought as to what she might offer. I doubt we ever will know, in fact, I know we will never find out what this “Darker Praha” has to offer, but it amuses me to know that it has a not so garish side.

If you’d like to Czech-out pictures from my first couple days, log on to facebook and check my homepage (wow, if that wasn’t a well plugged advertisment then I don’t know what is!) I love you all!

Zach

A Proper Introduction

It is still six days until my plane leaves for what feels like worlds unknown. I am sitting here at my computer thinking of how a proper blog greeting should go. I guess “thanks” is as good of start as any. Thank you mom and dad so very much. Mom especially; you have been a true study abroad warrior in every sense of the word. I can’t thank you enough for letting me have this opportunity to travel the world and cultivate stories that I know I will be telling for years. I love you both more than I can put into words. For those who are planning on keeping up with me during my travels with this blog, thank you. It’s great knowing I have people back home who love me and care for me enough to follow a blog about my travels. I shall not forget any of you.

Now, I guess from there I will give you a preview of what I’d like to do with this blog. First off, I want it to be a gateway for my friends and family back home to join me on my travels. I will write (to the best of my abilities) so that you may actually feel like you were with me as opposed to only reading about it. You will have to bear with me I warn you, I may not update this every single day. But please, don’t lose faith if I haven’t, I promise it will be update as often as I can get on the internet. Secondly, I want this blog to act almost like a memory book for myself. I am going to be keeping a journal because there is something about the pen and paper that makes everything seem more “authentic” but I will be using this blog as an electronic back up. It will (hopefully) contain pictures and videos so that you will have the opportunity to see what I will be seeing.

I guess that’s all for now. A lengthy first post I’ll admit that, but what can I say, I love to write. Oh, I should mention the title of my blog “There and Back Again: A Study Abroad Tale”. For those of you less versed in the ways of literature, I borrowed the title from J.R. Tolkien’s work “The Hobbit”. As some of you may not know, “There and Back Again” is the alternative title to “The Hobbit” and is also the book that protagonist Bilbo Baggins writes about his adventures. I thought it fitting because I feel a little like Bilbo, leaving my home in search of great adventures and stories to tell all you back in Hobbiton. I just hope they are vacant of all dragons and dark rings.

With Love,

Zach