24 April 2014

Easter Beating

I prefer the peaceful Easter bunny
We spent Easter in pretty much the most traditional Czech way possible: at a chalupa (cottage) in the woods.

The weather was lovely and aside from a medical issue with L's grandfather, it was a magical weekend.

Additionally, I experienced for the second time the mysterious Czech Easter custom of pomlazky.

As I understand it, the tradition goes like this: Czech menfolk gather willow branches and braid them into whips. Meanwhile, the womenfolk spend ages making beautifully-decorated eggs.

When the time is right, the menfolk chase the womenfolk around whilst reciting a poem and whacking the womenfolk with the willow whips. Somehow, this transfers the energy of spring into the womenfolk, who gratefully give the menfolk the beautifully-decorated eggs.

Sometimes, the womenfolk return the favour and transfer spring energy into the menfolk by dosing them with cold water, but unfortunately, this was not part of our family's celebrations.

I can kind of see what is in this tradition for Czech men, but I'm mystified as to how the women are benefited.

L. and my students tried to help me see the niceness of this tradition, but I'm afraid I just can't get past the women-beating-ness of it all.

Smalls, for his part, was also confused about the tradition.

'Hit your mama with it and she'll give you an egg,' the family urged.

'But just during Easter,' I hastily added.

In the end, he decided the best course of action was to be an equal-opportunities wielder of pomlaska, and transferred the energy of spring to both his táta and I. 

Which was sweet....I think.

15 April 2014

Kolik přesně?

I am worried about L.

When I first met him, I thought he was a proper Prague Boy. But it seems the fresh country air of our little village has turned him into an irrefutable Village Boy.

Case in point: we bought a wood burning stove (kamna) a few months ago. It is really lovely to lounge in front of it with a glass of wine after a long day of work. I am a fan of the stove.

L is....more than a fan. I would even venture to say he has turned into a kamna enthusiast.

I hadn't realised how enthusiastic he was until this past week. He told me a village friend had a contact who could provide a nice pile of wood at a good price. Would I mind if he got some wood from said contact?

'No problem, dear,' I said.

Those with more experience in these matters than me will probably see what is coming next, because, as they will no doubt have noticed, I neglected to ask a key question: just how much wood is in a 'nice pile'?

My suspicions were piqued when L started to talk enthusiastically to Smalls about a big truck that would be coming soon.

It was indeed a very big truck, and it left a very considerable pile of wood.
Which has now been divided into two considerable piles of wood.
In the garage....

...and in the cellar

Considering that we use the kamna purely recreationally, at a rate of four or five logs per week, I'm am relatively confident we should survive the winter.

On the positive side, now we really don't have room for the chickens and/or pigs that L has been talking about.

03 April 2014

Ježíš Maria! (Or yet more about my driving license)

Having passed my Czech driving license test (did I mention I passed my Czech driving test?), it was time for me to submit the papers to the relevant government office.

This proved to be its own unique challenge.
Not unlike fitting and SUV through a tree
I am normally obsessive about making sure I have all the relevant advice on submitting official documents. In the UK, I would spend hours searching through buried webpages and obscure forums to make sure I had all of the best information about, for instance, paying Council Tax.

Due to my limited Czech, this wasn't really an option this time around. So, instead of wasting hours of my employer's time, my search consisted of an unsatisfactory attempt with Google Translate. In despair, I begged and bullied L into trawling the Internet for me. I suspect he looked only at one page.

And so, with a stack of papers and two photos, I went to the relevant Městský úřad.

It....could have gone better.

I proudly handed over the stack. The lady tutted and kept saying something about 'autoškola' [driving school]. 

I, confident in the belief that I had the correct documents plus the paper from the autoškola saying I had passed the test (did I mention I passed the test?), grinned nervously and said, 'Jo, jo, autoškola'.

This was not the correct answer, apparently, and she sent me away with a list of further documents I would need and instructions to talk to my husband.

L, who was working at the time and thus unable to visit the office with me, first calmed me down and then called the office. It seems the internet was not in full possession of the facts, and neither, it seems, was my autoškola. 

Note for other obsessive official documents researchers: it seems that the Czech government now wants non-EU foreigners to prove that they are legitimately here and have 'ties' to the Czech Republic before issuing a driving license. For me, this took the form of my marriage certificate, pis z katastru (a document stating who owns the place where I am living), and a letter from L stating that he was happy for me to continue to live with him. 

I'll just pour myself a glass of wine and calm down again.

So, a few days later, with even more documents, I went yet again to the relevant Městský úřad. 

I can't say I fully blame the lady, who, when faced yet again with my smiling visage, turned to her colleague in despair and uttered, 'Ježíš Maria! To je pani...' (Mother of God! It's the woman...)

This time, now that the scales of the rightness of the internet had fully been removed from my eyes, things went better. My Czech was better, both the lady and her colleague made better attempts to understand, and by the end, we were all politely joking about the pile of photocopies that were stapled firmly to my application. 

They even took down L's number in case they needed more documents. 

A little under twenty business days later, and my license was ready to collect.

The office lady took one look at my identification, and recognition slowly spread across her face.

'Pamatuji si vás,' [I remember you] she said. Possibly with some degree of fondness.