Sunday, May 28, 2006

Lunch on Petrin Hill, Russ and Pam taking flower pictures.

Peg and Pam at Letna Park Prague

The Pope, A Final Fulbright Event, Pam, Russ, Arnold and Ismini, Cesky Krumlov, Telc, Olomouc

It is Sunday. Russ, Ismini, Arnold, and I just arrived in Krakow. Guess who else is here? The POPE!

As we drove toward the city we noticed that there were many, many police. Russ spotted one policeman with binoculars and we guessed they were checking inspection stickers on cars. Then there were just too many police. They were at almost every intersection and cloverleaf along the highway. They were on the overpasses. They were even standing along the highway where there was no intersection…in fields. Okay…what’s happening, say we to each other. Ah ha, and no one is coming at us on the other side of the highway…no one, not a single car or bus…obviously it is closed. About then we figured it out, because Pam had mentioned in an email that she thought our visit might overlap with the pope’s.

We had an awful time getting hotel reservations...but of course never guessed that it was the pope’s fault. It would have helped if we had guessed, because we could have planned to leave the city to him today and we could have arrived tomorrow or Tuesday. Alas, no such thoughts occurred to us until it was too late.

When we got close to the city, roads were closed on our side too. It took about an hour of extra driving to find a way round and round about to our hotel. Now we are settled in and resting up from dodging all the pope-tourists who were all over the streets and highways as we tried to find our way here.

The pope has gone to visit Auschwitz right now and then will return to the Krakow airport. After he leaves, things will calm down. Until he leaves, no alcoholic beverages are available in Krakow. The town went “dry” for two days!

Scrolling back to before our papal adventure, to the end of my last entry….Russ arrived on Wednesday the 17th after a relatively uneventful flight. We took care of some errands, getting ready for the return home, found a couple of nice new-to-me restaurants, and waited for Pam to get in on Friday before starting any tourist activities. Pam also had a good flight and got in about 1:00. We wandered in Old Town Square and had a good Czech dinner at a brew pub before settling in for the two of them to try to reset their internal clocks with some extra sleep.

Arnold and Ismini arrived early Saturday. We all did lots of tourist things: Old Town Square, Malastrana, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Karlstejn Castle, the opera at Narodni Divadlo, Kaverna Slavia, great food, lots of shopping, Petrin Hill, the Monastery….

I had my final official Fulbright activity on Tuesday. I gave a presentation at the 4th Annual Convention of Czech Republic Foundations. There were about 100 participants. It was quite thrilling. In my session, we discussed fund-raising campaigns and endowment management. These foundations are only 5-15 years old. It is very exciting to see the entrepreneurial spirit and the passion of these founding executives. I hope to continue to work with some of them, including the Donors Forum, which was the sponsoring organization. As much as I wanted to spend more time with Russ, Pam, Arnold, and Ismini being tourists, I hated to let go of the Fulbright activities!

Pam had to go back on Thursday. She had an okay flight, arriving without luggage...bummer.

The rest of us rented a car and took off for parts unknown. We toured the Plzen brewery and were sad to learn that it is now owned by Miller Brewing Company and a South African firm, in conglomerate. That cannot mean better beer in the future!

We spent Thursday and Friday nights in Česky Krumlov. We stayed at the Hotel Leonardo, which was charming, and less than $90 a night, including breakfast, for a totally quaint room. Unfortunately some young couple, egged on by “friends”, decided to have a major fight outside our windows one night keeping everyone in the hotel awake and making various of us wish we had a hose, like you would use to break up a cat fight on a summer night. But, we loved the castle visit and the wandering around. We bought jewelry and visited shops. Nice!

Yesterday, we visited Telč and Olomouc. We planned to also see Třebeč but a detour got us so far off track that we decided to save it for the return trip. Telč is little town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a charmingly well preserved central square, which is under construction at the moment, which did not keep us from imagining its grandeur! We loved it.

Olomouc is also a UNESCO site. It is a big town and has almost no tourists. We could hardly believe all the pedestrian zones with fountains and churches and wonderful sites…and NO people. We walked for a couple of hours at least, then decided to spend the night there. We found a brand new boutique hotel in a very old building in the pedestrian-only area for about $80, including breakfast. We had a great dinner in a quaint Czech-food restaurant on the Square. Cabbage and sausage soup….grilled meats…peasant platters….Moravian wines…yum! We even took an evening walk in the rain to get some pretty photos.

I hated to leave the Czech Republic today…even if only to come to Krakow. The drive through the mountains was picturesque. The hills are getting higher, but they are not quite mountains yet. Soon, I’ll have some mountain pictures to post. It feels very different to be a tourist, instead of “living” here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

School Hubbub

School hubbub watchers

School hubbub 1

Rites of Passage?

Friday morning at 6:00AM there was lots of shouting outside my apartment. On the street, between my building and the high school next door, were two jeeps and five or six young men in camo outfits, with face paint, Czech beer, and apparently-pretend rifles. They were whooping and hollering. It didn’t stop. Soon others arrived in equally noisy form, with camo uniforms too. When drivers tried to pass on the street, they were stopped and apparently asked to pay a fee to drive by, which most seemed to do in good spirits. When younger kids came to go to school, they either paid a fee, or were marked with the face grease. Girls seemed doomed to be marked on their faces, legs, bellies, arms…fee or no. After several hours, the students moved inside, but the noise didn’t really stop. Our guess was…rites of passage…but this was not quite like I remember “Moving Up Day” at Mercy High.

View of Marathon Music Show from the U Prince Hotel's Rooftop Restaurant

View from Letna Park

Marathon Give Aways

Prague Marathon

Orange Hair

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More Babies in Hats

End of Classes, Exit Meetings with Nonprofits, Visiting Romanian Fulbrighters, Prague Marathon

Yesterday was the last day of classes for the semester. It certainly zipped by. My students all turned in their papers on time and I have all my grading done and turned in. It is a good feeling. I enjoyed the students and I feel good about what they learned. My class was their first exposure to communication as an organizational function, and they really took to the concepts and processes. They produced some strong Strategic Communications Plans, as final projects, especially considering that they had only one class in which to master the elements.

I have been meeting one-by-one with each of the nonprofits that I have consulted with. There may be some opportunity for future collaborations with a few of them. That we be wonderful.

Margaret and Ben, the Fulbrighters with whom I stayed in Romania, came to visit over the weekend. They arrived Thursday in late afternoon, and we started their visit with a perfectly gorgeous evening! Taking advantage of it, after resting with a glass of wine, we rode the funicular up the hill to a restaurant with a wonderful view of the city and had a good Czech dinner. Then we walked down the hill and stopped for a nightcap at St. Nicholas Café. To polish it off, we walked back across the Charles Bridge and through the Old Town Square. Quite spectacular.

They took a city Friday tour, while I graded papers. In the evening we went to a brew-pub for dinner and then to see Madame Butterfly at the State Opera House. We decided that an opera with more action might have been a better choice to see at an Opera House with only Czech subtitles. It was more like watching a concert than an opera...ha!

On Saturday they visited the Castle, while I graded papers. In the evening we went to a Thai restaurant near my apartment and then walked over to Old Town Square where there was a concert in connection with the Prague Marathon Sunday morning. We decided we would enjoy that music more if we were farther away from it. So we went to the rooftop terrace of the U Prince Hotel and had a drink while watching the action below. Great!

Sunday we went to watch the start of the Marathon. It actually ran by the corner near my apratment, but we went a little closer to the start line just for fun. The sponsors were giving away bottled water, visors, apples, balloons, and rain covers. Very colorful! Margaret and Ben then went on a tour of the Jewish Section, while I graded more papers. It was a good visit.

Russ arrives tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Children's Choir at the Oneness Light Concert

Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge on a beautful May evening!

Babies wear cute hats here

Family homes in Prague

Hair color to match your skirt and socks

Public display of affection

Donors Forum, Student Papers, Prague Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cowboys, St Nicholas, More Student Papers, Holiday Celebrating the End of WWII, Network

Yesterday, May 8, was a national holiday to celebrate the end of WWII. Last night I went to a midnight holiday concert. The concert was held at the Synagogue and the Church that are both on my block. I think they had it at the two venues because they expected more people than would fit in either, since both are small. But it was also a symbolic gesture, I'm sure. The concert was called Oneness Light and there were spotlights set up outside that kept panning the two buildings and uniting them visually.

It really started at 11:00, which was good because it didn't end until 12:45. I had trouble maintaining my enthusiasm for going because I was quite sleepy about 10:30, but I decided to at least walk over and see what they would do with the spotlights they'd set up. Then I got a second wind and stayed; I'm glad I did.

The artists moved back and forth between the venues so that everyone heard everything. There seemed to be some audience members who moved too. Maybe some people wanted to hear a performance twice, or were friends with an artist... I went to the church and it was full...about 50 people.

First a group performed parts of Mozart's Requiem and Handel's Messiah. Then a children's choir performed about 4 different Glorias and a couple of Jewish pieces.

That was followed by a woman who sang two amazingly plaintive Jewish pieces, accompanying herself on violin. The church was quite dark and she walked all around the altar area and around us while she performed, making it seem as if she was almost a ghost haunting the building and the audience.

An electronic keyboard had been set up in the altar area and the artist who played it had war in his fingers. His music vibrated the floor and came up through your feet as well as echoing down from all the arches.

The final performer was a violinist who did two Jewish pieces. He had the whole church darkened which put the focus more on his music than him. But he was a wonderful musician...the kind who makes you wonder how a person can make an instrument do what he's making his do. His pieces were alive and full of energy...very uplifting to the spirit, after the impressively war-like pieces that preceded him.

The concert was the highlight of the time since I returned from Slovakia. But I have been busy with other things as well.

I did a presentation for corporate giving officers at a meeting of the Donors Forum. Companies often evaluate their corporate giving by measuring how much they give, how well the grantee used the money, and what results the grantee had. My talk was about the value of also measuring what good the giving did for the company. I think that is important in order to justify continued and increased giving, particularly when times are hard and giving must compete with advertising, or marketing for corporate dollars. It was great fun because the participants liked it a lot. Today I was at a meeting with a foundation leader and he said that he knew what I talked about although he wasn’t there because one of the corporate people told him about it. That was a great feeling!

The weather has been as beautiful for the past couple of weeks as it was cold in the winter. Taking advantage of that, I went to the Prague Zoo and Botanical Gardens on Saturday with Susan. The zoo is very nice, but the gardens are even better. We went early and got back in time for me to work on student end-of-semester papers. Then I went to dinner with another friend at Cowboys, a relatively new restaurant with a rooftop terrace. It was a beautiful place to spend a gorgeous evening.

In my computer time, I have been grading lots of student papers and preparing presentations for my remaining commitments. It takes a surprising amount of time to do both tasks. After a day of such efforts, I met Susan for a pizza at the St. Nicholas Café, where Meg, Steve, and I spent some cold afternoons getting warm. They had live guitar music and it was wonderful. Like the previous night, the walk back across the Charles Bridge was too pretty for words.

This week I am trying to meet with each of my contacts one last time before folks arrive and it is time to start packing up. I did three meetings today, including my first visit to a Czech family home. I met the three-week old baby of one of my new friends. Sweet.

I’ll post photos soon.