Filed under: aeroplanes, amazing, anxiety, awesome!, awkward, beautiful, beer, bragging, bridges, business is business, commuting, curious, Czech Republic, Czechia, dia de los muertos, edjumacation, fun, game face, gratitude, iPhone, iPhoneography, jet lag, learning, life, mah feets, make it work, memories, New Mexico, Opinions, overwhelmed, photowalk, play through, Prague, rain, scared, selfie, show and tell, sleep deprived, sunsets, thank you, the globe, The Good Man, travel, Turistas, woo hoo!, work, yes boss
It was just a week ago yesterday that I found myself in the world class city of Prague with a personal day on my hands.
The work part of the trip had been both busy and exhausting. My coworkers all left for home that morning but I had a tourist Friday ahead of me. The challenge: To see as many of the must-see Prague sights as possible in one day.
Now just eight days later, it seems almost like a dream.
A week ago it was very real. So real I had a fair bit of anxiety and no idea what lay ahead. The Good Man managed to talk me down from nine timezones away and with a deep breath, I screwed up my courage and headed out of the hotel room.
As luck would have it, there happened to be a Metro station right under the hotel.
So this is where my journey began:
A simple suburban Metro station that would take me *everywhere*
The hotel where I stayed is in the suburbs of Prague, but the Metro is so damn good it was a less than fifteen minute ride and I emerged at the bottom of Wenceslaus Square.
I had done some reading before arriving in Prague and I knew a bit about Wenceslaus Square.
Well, I knew three things:
Thing 1) The square is dominated by a statue of King Wenceslaus. As in “Good King Weceslaus blah blah, on the feast Stephen, nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh, deep and crisp and even…”
What the hell is that song even about, anyway? Wait, let’s hold that question for another time.
On that day, I knew that Saint Wenceslaus is considered the patron saint of the Czech Republic.
So I walked uphill and gawked at the shops and restaurants and soon found myself in the shadow of the Good King and his steed.
That there is a gooood king
Thing 2) Wenceslaus Square is incredibly historic, considered the very heart of the city of Prague, and it is a World Heritage Site because it was on that very square in 1989 that the Velvet Revolution happened.
What is the Velvet Revolution, you say? I’m so glad you asked.
The Velvet Revolution is when the then Czechoslovakia decided it had had just about enough (MORE than enough) and threw off Communist rule. They then became their own self-managed country with a parliament.
This is a very, very big deal. It utterly changed the course of the Czech people. For the better.
I have a coworker who grew up in Prague. She left as a teenager in 1984. She said, “We had to leave. We had so much despair. We believed it would never change.”
It would eventually change, but it would take a few more years.
So I stood on this square, a lost little girl from New Mexico, and thought about how much happened right where my feet stood. How these people took back their own destiny.
See where all those tourists are? History happened there.
Thing 3) At the top of Wenceslaus Square, behind the statue and in front of the museum something particularly sad and historic happened.
In 1968, a student named Jan Palach protested the invasion and eventual fall of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union during what was called the Prague Spring. He did so by committing suicide by self-immolation.
“…Palach did not set himself on fire to protest against the Soviet occupation, but did so to protest against the ‘demoralization’ of Czechoslovak citizens caused by the occupation.” – from a doctor who treated Palach (wiki)
I think that sense of demoralization and despair runs strong through the history of the Czech people. In my experience, they are a very laid back and easy going people, but there is that sadness underneath. Well, maybe not sadness, just…world weary.
I wanted to find the small marker of Palach’s history that is embedded in the brickwork in front of the museum. I have to say I was greatly moved. There were flowers at the site, meaning people still remember and still care about what he did.
This is a simple but powerful marker
Well, that was a bit of a dark start to my day of exploration, but it also really touched me.
From there, I hopped back on the Metro and made my way to Old Town Square. The mood and attitude in the Old Town area could not have been more different.
The Old Town Square is beautiful, but incredibly overrun by tourists. Okay, sure, I was also a tourist, but you get what I mean.
Along with tourists there were an awful lot of flim-flam men (and women), grifters and pickpockets. At one point I stopped to look at maps on my phone to see if I was heading the right direction, and saw no less than three people make a move toward me.
San Francisco is a tourist town and I’m fairly used to this sort of untoward behavior, so each person got my patented City Stink Eye. The one that lets people know I am not to be trifled with.
They soon backed up, but that kind of predatory behavior was pretty rampant in the Old Town area. I was waving off sellers, beggars and all around questionable sorts left and right. I also kept a firm grip on my bag as I heard from several places that the pickpocketing is quite bad.
The main reason to be in Old Town, apart from admiring the amazing architecture, was to see the Astronomical Clock located at the Old Town Hall building.
Of course my favorite part was the skeleton
This clock was installed in 1410. Um, what? 14 freaking 10? Wow.
As luck would have it, I was there at about twenty minutes to the top of the hour, so I waited with all of the many tourists, in the rain I might add, to watch the clock’s mechanics at the top of the hour. A skeleton rings a bell, the animated figures come to life, and above the clock statues of the twelve apostles zip by and look out the windows.
It was very quaint and lovely, and I’m glad I saw it. Not much more to say than that. More than a Clark Griswald shrug, less than rapturous delight.
After taking some photos of the beautiful buildings on the square, I then made my way onward to the Charles Bridge.
The most famous of the bridges across the Vltava River, the Charles Bridge began construction in 1357.
You know how sometimes Europeans give Americans a wry smile when we talk about our deep history? Yeah, this is why. In 1357 they were building bridges that would safely transport my tired little toes across the same river some 659 years later. America wasn’t even a twinkle in the eye of Columbus in 1357.
The stroll across the bridge was certainly lively. Lots of people, lots of selfie sticks (ugh), quite a few pickpockets and an awful lot of Catholic statues. Like, a LOT of Catholic statues.
Felt like I needed to go to confession when I got to the other side, ba-dum, tish!
It was hard to pick just one photo from my walk across the river, but let’s go with this one:
The walk across the bridge was quite pleasing especially since the rain had moved on and a bright blue Czech sky emerged. Quite lovely.
The part of Prague on the other side of the bridge is known as Lesser Quarter, which I find quite a rude name. There was nothing lesser about this side of the bridge in my opinion. It is much quieter, calmer and less busy. It suited me just fine.
At this point, my legs, feet and bladder asked nicely if we could stop, so I landed at a coffee shop.
Over a lovely icy coffee, I tweeted exactly how I felt in that moment on that day.
As my legs relaxed, I listened to a group of four Czech students argue and debate and I watched life happen outside the glass door. I felt enormously contented. It’s those moments I will remember long after I’ve come back to my regular life. It’s those moments I wait for on each international trip I take. It’s what makes all of those long and ugly plane miles worth it.
Yeah. Seriously, may I never forget how good I felt in that moment.
Now fortified, I moved on to my last stop of the day, St Nicholas Church.
The guidebook I pondered over coffee told me that it was a beautiful example of a baroque church. I do like to see some of the old and over the top churches in Europe, so I was game.
The guidebook also mentioned the bell tower at the church. How it had been used by the communists to keep an eye on the American Embassy nearby, and that it offered some of the best views in all of Prague.
Impulse overtook me and I smacked down 90 koruna for a ticket and began climbing the stairs.
What in the utter hell was I thinking? One, my legs were already tired, two I’m in okay shape but stair climbing is tough, and three my asthma was like “hey, what’s up?”
But I kept climbing the spiral stairs and narrow ladders until it got more and more exhausting and claustrophobia inducing (and I don’t often struggle with claustrophobia).
At more than one point I had to remind myself that I managed to get myself into this situation and had to figure out how to get myself out.
My bullish determination kicked in and I made a promise I would make it all the way to the top.
Along the way I found the watchmen’s quarters, a sparse room with a small bed, rough wood table and open brickwork fireplace.
When there were windows, I looked out then kept climbing. Finally, I could smell the fresh air of outside and found myself at a narrow deck that encircled the tower. There was a guide there and she told me to go outside (I didn’t understand what the signs meant and had hesitated).
Wow. Truly. Wow. I was stunned at seeing all of Prague laid out before me.
The sky stippled with clouds and the sun began its slow descent toward the end of the day and there I stood taking it all in.
And hey, I wasn’t even at the top of the tower yet. After taking quite a few photos with both of my cameras, I kept climbing. The very, very top of the tower, at the end of 215 steps, was less interesting. It was low ceilinged, cramped, stuffy and the windows were small.
So I went back down to the narrow deck and took another spin.
With that, I declared myself done for the day. Ready to head back to the hotel.
I came down all 215 steps a lot faster than I went up and made myself dizzy. Wobbly on my pins, I chose instead to stop for some dinner and I’m glad I did. I found a funny little restaurant where they treated me nice and I ate something they called Slovak gnocchi, which a short Google search later assured me is actually a thing.
A very delicious thing.
I wanted to have a nice Czech beer alongside, but worried a beer would drop me right to the ground so I opted for something milder.
After eating my fill, I set out back across the Charles Bridge. The mood on the bridge had changed. I crossed east to west at about 2:45pm and came back west to east at close to 6:00pm. There were more people out and the Friday revelry had begun. It was funny how quickly the mood had shifted.
On the way back, I made sure I touched the two lucky spots on the bridge, once with my left hand for my husband, the southpaw, once with my right hand for me.
One of the two lucky spots, though a bit grim. So this priest was thrown in the water…
A nice twilight stroll and I soon found myself back at a Metro station waiting to head back to the hotel and the end of my stay in Prague.
There are quite a few more things I wish I could have found time to see while in Prague. The Apple Museum, the castle, and the art gallery, to name but a few, but I was grateful to have one full free day to see the best of what Prague had to offer.
Prague is a gorgeous, easy and fun city. I loved every minute of my time there and wonder if someday I will ever find my way back.
I suppose I can dream.
Meanwhile, at a week later I think my legs have finally recovered. Seriously, 215 stairs? C’mon!
And to the good people of Prague, I say děkuji for treating me so very well.
All photos ©Copyright 2016, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with either a Canon G10 or an iPhone6.
Filed under: amazing, automobiles, awesome!, awkward, Be Better!, beautiful, cackle, California, commuting, crazy, don't want!, doubts, game face, kerfuffle, laffs, latent childhood, life, make it work, miscellany, obviously, Opinions, play through, pondering, scared, show and tell, sunshine, The More You Know..., work, worried, yucky
That moment when you are sitting at stoplight as a pedestrian crosses with the light in front of your headlights and you notice that the morning sun is giving this gentleman a solid backlighting. As he is directly in front of your view, you notice that the hairs that extend well past his nostrils are beautifully set to glowing by the golden California sun.
And you think to yourself, “Oh wow. That’s…well that’s something.” And you laugh alone in your car because why not. You can sing in there so why can’t you cackle like a dyspeptic hen in there?
And as you turn the corner and head into the parking garage you think to yourself. “Don’t laugh, sparky. There but for the grace of a nose hair trimmer go you.”
So then you surreptitiously check both barrels of your own breathing device to see if the protective filtering is tidy and in place.
And you realize that, you know, you could use a little trim yourself.
So you sit in the car and in the morning light of a California sunrise and you use the scissors from your small Swiss Army Knife to give a quick clip, just enough to let your sanity rest during the day that lies ahead. Because no one should have to worry all day long about the nostril streamers that suddenly seem to grow with less control than they once did.
And when done, you feel both satisfied and mildly crazy and kind of blind because why didn’t you notice a trim was in order when you looked at your tired face in the mirror this morning?
But alas, you did not. Then you vow to take care of this problem more fully later tonight. And you should probably put on your reading glasses and give the eyebrows a check too because I bet those are out of control.
And then you get out of your car and walk into the office and enter this crazy day in a crazy way with crazy hair growing in crazy places.
Did you ever have a day like that? Yeah, um, me neither.
Image found here.
Filed under: anxiety, Autumn, awkward, Be Better!, business is business, cranky, curious, Dad, disappointed, don't want!, doooooom!, doubts, friends, gallows humor, gratitude, growing up, hey kids get off my lawn, I ain't as good as I once was, irritated, kerfuffle, kids these days, lactose intolerance, latent childhood, lazy, learning, life, make it work, melancholy, memories, miscellany, nostalgia, Opinions, overwhelmed, parenting, peculiar, people are people, play through, pondering, scared, self esteem issues, sensitive girl, sigh, signs, sports, truth is stranger than..., weirdity, worried, yucky
“Practice makes perfect,” they say and, “If you do something for 10,000 hours then you will be a master.”
Well, horse hockey is my answer to that.
If the delineator for adulthood is the age of 18, then I have put in a solid 236,682 hours at this craft, and I still haven’t figure out how to be a master.
In fact, I may be worse at it than ever.
Sure, I get up in the morning and I go to work and I make a paycheck and I pay my taxes and I usually vote and I have insurance and a 401k and even a will. All the trappings of being a grown up.
But I still would rather have cookies for dinner and silly cereal for breakfast. I still throw little tantrums when things don’t go my way. I still need naps and need to believe in Santa and I still want to play with toys and fly kites and occasionally I just need to melt down.
I can pay my taxes but the very thought of buying a house terrifies me. I can make decisions that impact millions of dollars at my job and then sometimes can’t decide if I want orange or lime flavored candy at the store. Then I buy and eat both and cry because my tummy hurts.
This thing, this adulthood, it doesn’t get easier.
And hell, I don’t even know where the border lies, the place I can cross safely and know for sure I have arrived into adulthood.
Some might say it happens when you have kids. Fair play, I guess. But I have a lot of friends with kids that I wouldn’t call the model citizens for grownup-itude.
When my dad died, that probably was the closest for me in knowing what it means to be an adult. I grew up pretty fast when, for better or worse, that was thrust upon me.
But even that wasn’t enough to be the final frontier for me. (mmm, Frontier. I could go for a cinnamon roll right about now)
This past month some things happened with my “lady guts” that signaled the beginning of a long journey. When a woman’s life turns from the dog days of summer into Autumn.
Discretion keeps me from going through all of the gory details, no one needs all of that. While I’m far too young for the “main event,” my body has let me know that the pre-game show has started and the players are starting to take the field. (nothing like a sports metaphor to describe a lady issue….)
I’m not ready for this. I’m not grown up enough for this. I’m not an adult! I have put in the hours, many hours of long grueling practice and still…still I find myself at this age and at this earthly turning of a season far from being an expert at adulthood. I am jack of many aspects and master of none.
Maybe that is okay. Maybe that is what being an adult is about, the continually wondering if you are “grown upping” correctly. Paying taxes and eating ice cream sundaes with reckless abandon (while popping Lactaid, because that’s a mature thing to do).
And on my next bubblegum ice cream sundae, I will be decisive enough to get both nuts AND sprinkles on top.
Because I’m young enough to want them both and old enough to pay for it.
So there. Take that! This is how I’m doing grown up and no one can make me do it differently!
Nanny nanny boo boo on you!
Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up because they are looking for ideas.
— Paula Poundstone
Image found here.
Filed under: anxiety, awesome!, awkward, Boss Lady, business is business, cursing, disappointed, disapproving boss, doooooom!, doubts, drama, gratitude, humility, kerfuffle, life, make it work, meeting hell, open a can o' whup-ass, Opinions, optimism, play through, PowerPoint hell, scared, skeerdy cat, superior dance, tears, woo hoo!, words, work, worried, yes boss
It’s amazing how little it takes to motivate me.
Here’s my story:
About a month ago I was sitting in staff meeting with all of my peers and my very high performing manager. She is a take no prisoners, get to it and get out kind of leader. She has been an executive for a long time and knows her business inside and out.
In the course of the meeting, there was a review of open projects that took me by surprise. It was on the agenda, but I misunderstood what was listed and as a consequence, wasn’t prepared. When a tracking spreadsheet opened up on the overhead screen, I was shocked to see my project listed first, and doubly shocked to see that the team project manager had listed my project with a red status.
To put it in the terms a bluesman would understand, I was not on the good foot.
Execu-Boss of course took one look at the screen, her eyes snapped to the red status and she whipped on me like a guard dog, then asked me what was going on with my project.
Ill prepared, I wavered into a not very good answer. Now smelling blood, she went in for my jugular. And connected.
Not to cross metaphors (but I’m gonna) on that day I was fitted with a brand new pooping device. Oh yes, I was taken down like a gazelle on the Kalahari.
This, understandably, upset me greatly.
Execu-Boss then wrapped up her slaying by saying, “Clearly you are not ready to discuss this. You’re on the agenda for next week to come back with some answers.”
Through teary eyes I wrote a note in my notebook and I felt really poorly for many days after.
But, I rallied. I stepped back, cleared my head, and over the course of the next week I put together a short PowerPoint slide deck showing a nice road map with milestones achieved, where we had gone off track and the very good reasons why, next steps and recommendations. Then I got feedback from a few peers and made changes.
I had only a short week to prepare, but I was ready. As luck would have it, the next meeting was cancelled.
The following meeting was taken up by a guest speaker so I was pushed out again.
At the meeting the following week, I was nervous as hell and really not ready to give the presentation. I had my slides ready to go but it just didn’t feel right. Luckily, after missing two weeks of meetings, our agenda was full and as we got to the end of our allotted time, I graciously agreed to push out my presentation again.
Then it was Fourth of July last week and we had no meeting.
I mean really, a four week stay of execution? Not bad.
Today I was on the agenda front and center, but there were some other pressing matters. For a while there it looked like I would get pushed again. No, I was ready today. Damnit, it was time.
: cue the Rocky theme song :
And so, it came my turn. I was handed the video cord for the overhead projector, and I plugged it into my laptop and my slides came up.
All in the room sat back and awaited my words, remembering the brutalizing I had received just a month before.
I said my words exactly how I’d practiced. I made clear at the beginning what I wanted from this presentation, I made my points, I asked for the support of the team, I answered questions and I wrapped it all up in less than ten minutes.
When I said “and that’s it” at the last slide, Execu-Boss looked me square in the eye and said, “Nicely done.” I swear to goodness fireworks went off in my head. Elation filled my veins. Jubilation washed over me.
I felt like doing a mic drop and walking out of the room. Karen has left the building. Thankyouverymuch.
That’s all it takes to motivate me. Those two words will keep me going for WEEKS!
Something to remember as I manage my own team.
Gif image found here.
Filed under: adorable, awesome!, backyard, baseball, big weather, cackle, Dad, drama, laffs, latent childhood, life, make it work, New Mexico, Opinions, play through, rain, safety, scared, water, woo hoo!
Imagine it if you will, Albuquerque in the 1970’s. Idyllic late summer days of blazing hot temperatures and then around 4pm, the boiling dark clouds move in and the rain comes a’pouring down.
That summer monsoon rain would cool things off, water the plants and change the smell of the air.
I used to love running outside to play in the pouring rain. It was always a warm rain and I’d dance among the raindrops, catch a few on my tongue and generally frolicking about getting soaked from head to toe while searching for rainbows.
Rain storms in New Mexico are a show. Ripping bolts of lightning and crashing booms of thunder. On one such dancing day in the rain when I was a kid, I didn’t realize how close I was to the center of the storm, and as I did my soggy dance, the thunder cracked so loudly that my feet moved from a lively jig to a dead ahead run in one swift movement as terror coursed through my veins.
It looked something like…well…this:
Except I was an eight year old girl. The people in this .gif are grown ass men. Major league ballplayers for the New York Yankees. (there is video out there, the Boston players had a similar reaction).
But I know the feeling. Oh, I get it.
Just as my dad laughed his butt off when I went racing by, terrified and soaking, I am laughing my head off at this .gif (and the video).
Just can’t stop watching it. heh.
.gif found on Cheezburger.com.