awkward : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

48 Hours of Prague Thoughts

I have found myself in the city of Prague in the country of Czech Republic for only forty-eight hours. Well, a little less than forty-eight, but let’s not quibble.

In forty-eight hours I have learned that the current leadership of the country wants their country to be referred to as Czechia, for reasons I don’t fully understand.

“The Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadaster officially codified Czechia in 1993 in its publication “Names of States and their Territorial Parts”. Therefore, Czechia is the grammatically correct short name of the Czech Republic…” – from Go-Czechia.com

I have learned that occasionally I can understand a word or two in Czech, but then the diacritic marks give me doubt.

And I have interacted with Czech citizens, mostly the driver of my airport shuttle, hotel staff, and employees of the mall next door to the hotel. The clerks at the grocery store in the mall are probably the most Czech of the Czechs I have encountered. They have little to no English and can’t care that I have no Czech. I admire this.

One habit I have cultivated in my bit of international traveling is that I like to go to grocery stores when I visit other countries. I like to see what everyday people buy and how everyday people procure their comestibles. Also because grocery store clerks are the most representative of the people of the country because they have no enthusiasm for making it easy on tourists. They are just being genuine.

In less than forty-eight hours I have come to appreciate and even feel a deep fondness for the people of Prague. Come with me on this tangent: Over the course of my life I have been fortunate enough to be friends with many Russian people. People from Russia have a very distinct cultural identity. Most Russian people I know can find a way to be unhappy even in the most incredibly happy of times. Not a sadness, but a deep disappointment tinged with world weariness. There is almost an enjoyment in unhappiness.

Obviously, owing to the long history of Czechia (see, I can learn), Russian culture has had a deep impact on the people who live here. I find some of that same slight sadness, irritation and fatigue with life in the people of Prague. At least the people older than say…thirty-five. It’s almost kind of endearing.

Here’s my best example. I went to the grocery to get some water, some chips and some cookies to stock in my hotel room for snack time. I had just a few items and I approached the register, feeling nervous.

I had learned two days ago that if I want a bag, I have to take one (paper or plastic) from the front of the register, and I have to let the clerk know I am buying the bag, and then I have to bag my own groceries. It’s very common in Europe to bag your own groceries. I was proud to have learned the whole bag situation (a nice Czech lady helped me) and was ready to check out. (Czech out? Okay, bad pun.)

My sweet little American self stepped forward when it was my turn, and I held up the bag and pointed and nodded. The clerk sighed and began mumbling in Czech. Then the mumbling took on a ferocity. She riffled through some papers on her table and spoke more loudly, but not to me.

She shouted across the aisle to the clerk at the next checkout station. A conversation ensued. As near as I can decipher, she needed the code for the paper bag I had chosen. The other woman offered a suggestion that didn’t work. My checker kept trying until after several attempts, she sorted it out.

She then began to scan the rest of my items, mumbling and gesturing in Czech. Not speaking to me, but clearly unhappy. Occasionally she’d shove at the papers that had let her down.

In my mind, I translated from a language I do not understand, but I think I understood the moment.

“This person wants a paper bag and they tell me I have to charge for it and if I’m supposed to charge you’d think they would at least give me the code on these damn papers,” shoves papers, “but no, I have to guess and this goofy looking American is standing here, don’t think I don’t know you are an American. Just because you haven’t said a word doesn’t mean I can’t smell it on you from a mile away. And of course the American wants a paper bag. Plastic bag, I know the code for that, but no she wants a paper bag and I don’t know the code and I don’t have the code here,” shoves papers, “I have to scan all her stuff and I don’t even care, I just am trying to make a living here and I have to charge for paper bags and what is the meaning of life anyway, but to be miserable, forced to charge for a paper bag and never really knowing the correct code.”

Or, you know, I could be reading into things…just a teeny bit.

We concluded our transaction and I smiled and said “thank you.” She looked at me like I was a developmentally latent child, and I walked away, a few Czech Crowns lighter, a bag of chips water and cookies in hand, and a story that felt like it needed to be told.

Tomorrow brings the most intense day of meetings, the whole reason my employer sent me to Prague. Once that is concluded, I can hardly wait to finally explore more of this beautiful city and learn more about the people and places of Czechia. I can’t wait!




The Google translate app (using the camera, a very cool feature) tells me that this grocery bag says (roughly) “With 25 years, from us you take away freshness and quality.” You can see how the last word really could be the word “quality.” But beware of thinking you know something now, because you certainly do not. Your Czech is of no kvalitu.





Photo ©2016 Karen Fayeth, taken with an iPhone, the Camera+ app, amusement and jet lag. Subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page.




Log, Log, It’s Big, It’s Heavy, It’s Wood

The photography club I attend monthly has been going through a lot of flux over the past year. A few of the main members have left (retired, mostly) and new folks have joined. We have a new leader and he’s got a lot of ideas. It’s a lot of change. For the good, I’m sure, but change anyway.

I’ve talked a bit about this group. It’s made up of both scientists and engineers and is overwhelmingly male. These guys are very much tech head photographers who are all about gear and photographic perfection. Their photos are technically precise but in my opinion lack emotion…which suits them just fine.

It’s a debate we have a lot in the meetings. Art vs Technical. Let’s just say, my storytelling approach to photographs is in the way, way minority. I can often actually *hear* eyes rolling as one of my photos rolls across the screen during critiques.

I have learned a lot from this group. I work hard to make my photos better. To improve. To get technically cleaner. That said, in some ways, I also like to goad them. Poke the tiger with a stick.

One of the things we seem to struggle with as a group is our monthly theme. It’s hard to come up with jazzy ideas every thirty days. This year’s themes are some good and some weird. All are great in my opinion. I love being challenged.

A few of the more rigid photographers aren’t having as much fun with the themes as I am.

For March, our theme was “wood.” Seems easy, doesn’t it? But it’s harder than you’d think to come up with a good, unique, and well crafted photo of wood. It’s almost too broad.

We get two entries each month. I did one that was a bit more “clean” though it still could use some technical work. And I did one storytelling photo.

Neither were very well received.

Presented for your perusal:


Palm, Pine, Maple, and Telephone


Copyright ©2016, Karen Fayeth


I presented this as a study of the wood types found in my neighborhood, each pattern more interesting than the last.

Ok, the image has a joke there at the end. And with the title I was yanking their chains, as these nature photographers get quite sniffy about the precise genus and species of flora and fauna they photograph.

This photo garnered four votes in our monthly contest. Not terrible, but not close to winning either.

Here is my other shot. I very much enjoy the story in this one. It got one vote. (At least it got one?)


Log


Copyright ©2016, Karen Fayeth


When faced with the conundrum of properly conveying the feeling of “random log in parking garage,” I chose to go with moody.

This photograph was not subjected to Instagram filters. A color photo of this wooden beauty was lightly desaturated then pulled into Photoshop for burn and dodge to bring out those beautiful loggy highlights.

The squarish shape is due to cropping out surrounding cars.

I really love this photo. I mean…why the hell is there a log in the parking garage at work?

Also, could this BE any more perfect for the theme of wood? Nailed it!

One vote. At least one other photography club member gets it. It’s something to build on.





Both photos are Copyright ©2016, Karen Lingua. All taken with an iPhone6 and the Camera+ app. First photo also utilized the free photojoiner.net site to combine the photos. Subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page.





The Awkward Chronicles

It seems as each year goes by, I get a little more awkward. I mean, I’ve never really been cool as the other side of the pillow, but over time it seems it’s tougher and tougher to just, you know, maintain.

Yesterday, I heard that one of our young intern employees will be leaving the company. I don’t know the guy that well, but he helped on a few projects I worked on and I found him to be an all around good person and hard worker.

As a manager and mentor, I wanted to stop by to thank him for his work, encourage him in his next role and offer to be a reference if he needed.

It’s the kind of thing I wish a few more people in leadership roles would have done for me in my career. I certainly remember with much gratitude those that did.

So I had a good opportunity during the busy day yesterday. I walked to his cubicle and stopped to ask, “Hey, I hear you are leaving tomorrow?” When he confirmed, I said, “Just wanted to thank you for your hard work and support. You have been invaluable to us. I hope you are able to find a new position very quickly. You will bring so much value wherever you land next.”

He thanked me and started talking about how he really loves the culture here at our company and how he has liked the job and hopes he finds something equally supportive. And how much he appreciates all of the leadership here and……you get the drift.

As he’s talking, my left eye began to betray me. I have terribly dry eyes and it’s also allergy season. Before I knew it, a tear welled up and slid onto my cheek.

And the kid noticed. He saw the tear and kind of stopped speaking.

“Um,” *awkward laugh* “Yeah, sorry man,” I said as I wiped the tear away. “I’m not crying, it’s just allergies.”

“Oh.” He said, trying to be nice but now a little weirded out.

“Hey, you know, dry eyes, allergies, kind of funny right! Like I’m so broken up right now because you are leaving, ha ha ha….” Then I awkwardly reached out to lightly punch him in the arm.

Which he awkwardly took to mean I was going in for a hug.

So yeah. There was a clumsy punch-hug thing that happened. I quickly stepped back and said “Hey, yeah, good luck! Let me know if you need a reference or anything!” and then scuttled off like the bottom dwelling weirdo that I am.

Lots of people might say, “But Karen, these kinds of things happen to everyone sometimes.”

I might reply with a maniacal laugh, “If only these kinds of things happened sometimes. How about all the time?”

So, let’s bright side this thing: 1) No one else saw this sad awkward exchange, 2) the guy is leaving the company and so I only have to face him in the break room for one more day and 3) odds are low our paths will cross again soon. I mean maybe, but it’s unlikely.

Okay, I’m grateful for my blog-as-confessional as a place to work out the feelings around these kinds of things.

Onward to my next awkward encounter!




Nah man, it’s totally allergies. I swear!




Photo by Fred Fokkelman and used royalty free from freeimages.com.




Too Much Time On My Hands

Perfect posting for a Friday…

On Monday I had an early morning video call with a company in London. Oh those pesky time zones. Did you know that the US and the UK go to Daylight Savings Time (British Summer Time) about three weeks apart, and the US goes first? Monday was the first workday after the US moving ahead an hour, while the UK didn’t.

Yeah, I remembered that in the small hours of the morning and quickly dashed off an email to sort out the timing. Thankfully everything worked out.

To prepare for the video conference, I got up extra early and came into the office to set up and test all of my video gear. I just moved into an office a couple weeks ago and my video gear was in a heap in a drawer. Great.

I was able to quickly get it set up and tested and then ten minutes before the call, I was ready to go.

Ten minutes. That is a funny amount of time. Not enough time to really get anything going with work. I mean, I could have dived into email but then I just knew I would get engaged in something and would lose track of time.

But ten minutes is also kind of a long time to sit around and do nothing.

So I did what any adult professional in my situation would do. To “test” my video camera set up, I fired up PhotoBooth on my Mac and played with the effects.

I tried the one with hearts around the head, then the birds around the head. I tried the one that gave me frog eyes and one that produced a disturbing cartoonlike square jaw.

But none were quite as impressive as this. Let’s call it Alien Accounts Receivable Clerk. And your payment is overdue.



“Please remit payment or I will be forced to terminate your account”


So yeah, when the top of the hour finally rolled around, I entered the video conference still giggling.

A little too jolly for a fairly serious meeting with stoic Brits. *Ahem*

But I cleaned up my act, greeted the others on the call and then behaved like a grown up for a WHOLE HOUR!

Amazing. (hee, hee)





Photo ©2016 Karen Fayeth, taken with the PhotoBook App on my Mac and ten minutes of downtime plus post Daylight Savings Time exhaustion on my hands. Subject to the Creative Commons License in the right corner of this page.





Yeeeup

File this under “The Joys of Owning a 15-Year-Old Vehicle”

Yesterday was a weird day. I mean, when you are me most days are weird, but yesterday was especially so.

To kick off the festivities, I forgot my work badge and had a meeting in a special super secure location. It was okay, I simply had to run the security gauntlet which included one security guard keeping a sharp eye on me while the other spoke in low tones to the Human Resources Department.

Turns out I’m still an employee so they grudgingly let me through.

After the meeting, I went back to my building and because I didn’t have my badge, I couldn’t get into the garage. The alternative was to park on the street outside.

After parallel parking, I gave my car a visual sweep because this neighborhood has a pretty bad smash and grab problem. Satisfied that there was nothing of any value in the Jeep, I headed inside.

At the end of the day, weary from a long day of solving other people’s problems and fighting fires, I walked to my car to discover that during the course of the day someone had smacked hard into the back bumper of my beloved hoopty. Someone in a white car by the looks of the stripe now tattooed into my black bumper.

Joke is on them, under that bumper is a solid steel towing package that is attached to the frame of my treasured Jeep. My bumper is a bit dented but they caught the worst of it, that is for certain.

With a sigh and a shrug, I got into the driver’s seat and I thought “something looks different.” My tired eyes roved around the Jeep, heart sinking, expecting something bad.

That’s when I saw my rearview mirror wedged between the passenger seat and the floor.

They smacked my bumper so damn hard it knocked the mirror off my windshield! Sonovabiscuit!

Let’s be fair, at fifteen years of age that mirror likely wasn’t very strong in it’s moorings anyway. But kind of a nuisance to see it laying on the floor.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I never really realized how often I look in the rearview mirror when I drive. It’s a lot. Which I suppose is good.

On the plus side, with no mirror in my line of view it was a lot easier to see the crazy college kids who rabbit out from between cars in my neighborhood. Next week is their Spring Break so they are especially hoppy lately. (nothing compared to finals week though, oh my)

So yeah, my tired old Jeep is a little worse for the wear. I will call in an insurance claim because parking around here is so weird that this isn’t first smacking the bumper has taken.

The insurance claim is a crapshoot, the cost to fix it may be more than the vehicle is worth. We’ll see. Maybe they can factor in how much the vehicle means to ME? Anyone? Huh?

Ah well, I have the side mirrors to guide me home and some sort of made up inspirational quote about not looking too much in the rearview.

Or something.




And I thought happiness was Lubbock, Texas in my rearview mirror.





Image found on Pinterest, attribution included on the image.





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