25 February 2014

Improvements: Kitchen edition

We bought the house knowing we would need to do a lot of work. Take, for instance, the original kitchen:

However, I had a vision.

Much work later....
And the vision has been realised!

23 February 2014

Masopust: upping our village credentials

Over the past two weeks, we attended not one, but two masopust parades. [Google helpfully translates 'Masopust' as 'Mardi Gras', which isn't a terrible translation.]

The first Masopust was last weekend in the lovely district of Suchdol. [Bing helpfully translates 'Suchdol' as 'San Diego', which is a truly terrible translation.] 

What Suchdol lacks in palm trees, it made up for in horns, accordions, people on stilts, cleverly home-made costumes, and sheer otherworldliness. There were also a surprisingly large number of English speakers attending, and L. laughingly commented that Suchdolsky Masopust would surely be featured in at least five 'My First Year in Prague: Aren't the Czechs Peculiar?'-style blogs. 

As a result, I have avoided writing about it.

However, yesterday, was our village's very own masopust, and I cannot not mention it because, you see, the village came to our very own house

It went like this: the strange collection of musicians, be-costumed people, on-lookers, and TV crew started off at the local pub.
The parade wound its way through the village, holding up cars along the way (literally - with plastic guns) and demanding donations. Donations of food and drink were also proffered at various houses along the way in exchange for a song or two from the band.
'I wonder,' L. mused idly as we strolled along, 'how one goes about getting selected to be visited by the parade?' 

We decided there must be a pre-arranged list - and there probably is. However, I can also attest that the masopust parade will also stop at your house if you come flying out of your house with a few bottles of slivovice and a shot glass.

This might be what my dear husband did. I might have been excitedly snapping photos as the drums thumped, the horns tooted and the accordion wheezed melodiously right outside our very house.

I don't mean to brag, but, well....

17 February 2014

The superiority of slippers

Last week, we talked about pet peeves with my students. Stinky people on public transport and annoying parents factored highly. However, one of my students had a particularly interesting pet peeve.

'People who wear socks with sandals,' he said. 

'Um,' I said, looking down at his feet, 'like you are currently doing?'

'No, not like me. These are bačkory.'

Readers, I present to you Czech bačkory with traditional socks for extra warmth and comfort.

Sadly, my freakishly small feet meant that pink was my only option
To American/British eyes, these house shoes look suspiciously like off-brand Birkenstocks, a popular-and-expensive outdoor sandal. However, Wikipedia informs me that Birkenstocks are originally German and also usually worn as house shoes, so I'm afraid my fellow countrymen and are the ones doing strange things.

The concept of bačkory has been a difficult one for me to grasp. I mean, I understand the general idea behind it - wearing dirty shoes in the house is indeed manky. However, there seem to be rules about when one should take off one's outdoor shoes and when one shouldn't - house, yes; doctor's office, yes and also no! go put your shoes back on! 

The students at my school are required to change into bačkory. Initially, it seemed really strange and far too informal to see students in slippers all day. This doesn't seem to be a requirement for teachers (at least not one I was told about), so for the past few months, I've been wearing my most-imposing boots when teaching. Primarily because I thought it would give me a bit of gravitas in the classroom.

But the doubts started creeping in that maybe I was missing out on a perk of teaching in a Czech school. And so, last week, I took my home slippers in to work with me.

It turns out that gravitas is overrated. 

A special pair of work slippers have now been purchased. (They, unlike my pink house slippers, are purple. I'm pretty sure I have no dignity left).

Smalls, of course, has a few pairs of bačkory. Traditional Czech house slippers for kids initially puzzled me with their....hm, unattractiveness. But, I must be getting more acclimated since I'm quite fond of Smalls's latest pair.