Monday, 16 September 2013

Czech Republic - Cups for tennis and bottles for wine

August 20-September 15

Hello everyone!

Ahoy from Prague! I live in the Czech Republic now, by the way. Back in Europe, though technically a tiny part of Kazakhstan is apparently classed as ‘European’. Prague, the capital city of this country steeped in history but almost as young as my previous country of residence, will be my home for the next two years.

There won’t be nearly as many blogs as there were from the Far East and the Middle of Nowhere. There are many reasons for this, ranging from an increased workload to the fact that I’ve been – indeed briefly lived – here before, in 2008. However, any opportunities to experience new things in a new Bohemian life will be grasped whenever possible.

The first few weeks have been incredibly busy. Finding a flat actually proved easier than expected, with a balcony that will surely be soaked in sun if the clouds ever decide to disappear. Settling into an existing school, so very different from last time, and learning about all of the rules and regulations has not been easy, but Hannah and I are slowly but surely getting the hang of it. Working and settling has taken up much of our time thus far.

Strangely, our fourth weekend of living in Prague was actually the first one in which we had two days off and a sense of freedom. This is due to moving house, flying home for my brother’s wedding and having to work a family picnic in school on one of the Saturdays. Our first full weekend was thus an opportunity to become more acquainted with our new home and sample some local highlights. Excluding beer gardens, of course; sitting in them happens fairly regularly!

From what we have seen so far, Czechs enjoy their sport. One of the more popular sports is tennis, partly because they have players that are rather good. Britain have Andy Murray; the Czechs have Tomas Berdych, amongst others. The Czech team are reigning champions in tennis’ equivalent of the World Cup, known as the Davis Cup. They were in the semi-finals against Argentina, and playing in the o2 Arena.

No, not that one. Apparently there is one in Prague as well. We went to watch the doubles match on the Saturday. With a Czech win qualifying them for the final in November, the anticipation in and around the stadium was palpable. To try and win the tie with a day to spare, the Czechs brought their big guns onto court, meaning we got to watch the veteran Radek Stepanek and the world number 6…Tomas Berdych. All 196cm of him.

We had actually watched the Czech Republic play tennis before in Kazakhstan, so were aware of the partisan and cacophonic support. Drummers, trumpeters and deep voices that would possibly be out of place in a Welsh choir all joined together in loud harmony to cheer on the home team. What we hadn’t witnessed before was the large Czech flag that they unfurl across part of the main stand when they win a set.

We saw this three times, as the Czechs romped to an easy victory over the hapless Argentines to set up a final against Serbia. I was happy about this, partly because of the unsportsmanlike behaviour of their travelling support chanting during points to put the players off. Unfortunately we have since learnt that the final will be held in Belgrade, but we will certainly be supporting the Czechs when it happens.

It was unfortunate that the day we spent in an indoor tennis arena was one of glorious sunshine, yet the following day which we spent outside was drab, wet and fairly miserable. We headed to the Troja district for a wine festival. The wine is actually grown on the hill we were situated on, overlooking the city to the south. The recommended wine, served in a classy plastic bottle, had a sharp taste that reminded me of Old Rosie cider. The colours were also slightly off-putting, but they helped to wash down the large sausages that will inevitably become a mainstay of my diet here.

Hectic. Non-stop. Chaotic. Immense fun. That is how I would sum up the first few weeks of the latest chapter in my international teaching life. There are sure to be more adventures as we settle in, with plenty more sporting and drinking events to savour.

Love you all


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