The Key to My Heart

I know it’s been a while, but welcome back to Prague in June! What better way to kick off week two than with our first visit to the Žižkostel Community Center for positive impact. Žižkostel is a long-standing partner with Remote Year in Prague, providing for the Roma community & those generally in need with support such as youth clubs, help for single-mothers and the homeless. The space is also used for cultural events and a range of other activities.

ME, Erica and I were off to an early start to beat the afternoon heat, and after stopping at the local grocery for a few provisions, we walked over to meet Tereza, Danny, Carol & Travis. Our host, Táňa, provided a tour of the property, which includes a large indoor meeting space, kitchen, public laundry facilities, an outdoor area for kids, a garden, a basement event space, and more. I was very impressed by their use of space and the amount of support provided to the community – I wish I’d taken some pictures!

After our tour, we began our work helping to repaint the fence a brilliant red. It was tough work sanding down old paint in preparation for new color, but our small yet mighty group made great progress. Of course, boys will be boys and when we got to a section with overgrown shrubbery, Danny and Trav started hacking away! Meanwhile, Ms. Carol discussed collaboration on a mural for the children to be painted before we said our goodbyes to Prague later that month.

Here’s a short video Sharan produced from the second group of volunteers.

Covered in paint, I made my way back to K10 for a productive afternoon before celebrating another birthday! Hemen was surprised by a delicious cake before the start of movie night. As a new member to the group that month, Hemen quickly showed how big his heart is and his interest in learning about people. It was a delight to see his surprise and gratitude on his birthday!

With cake in hand, it was time for Moana! I hadn’t previously seen Moana and therefore didn’t understand until that evening why it had become a regular staple in our Kairos soundtrack. I can now say it’s a regular part of my own life soundtrack and you should all watch this wonderful Disney creation.

Tuesday came with another round of Weekly Writing Warriors, where I had the Czech version of pancakes at Moment. With a few friendly faces to keep me company, I spent the morning drafting out blog posts.

Later that afternoon, we had our next track event with Marcus and The Naked Tour Guide. Marcus provided us with another fascinating tour focused on 20th Century Communism. One of the most interesting parts for me was learning about the Velvet Revolution and the events on Národní Street November 17th, 1989, where a memorial to the student demonstrations stands. It still amazes me how little I learned about events like this throughout Eastern Europe and the Communist block in school – maybe I would have paid more attention in history class!

Our tour ended with drinks at the Metronome in Letná Park just before sunset. It was created in 1991 in an area left vacant by the 1962 demolition of a monument to Stalin, the former Soviet leader. While people grabbed drinks, I took the chance to wander around the metronome and take in the views. This was a great hangout spot for the younger crowd with live music, drinks and a beautiful backdrop. I met back up with the group as they finished their drinks overlooking the Vltava River before heading back down the hill.

That night we were celebrating yet another June birthday! As it wasn’t quite time to meet, I took a moment to enjoy the sunset on my own and play around with my camera in an attempt to get some cool pictures. When it comes to lighting, I’m still an amateur!

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After enjoying the views, I joined the large group gathered nearby to celebrate Lamia’s birthday, said my hello’s and headed home exhausted after a long two days. Knowing Thursday would be another eventful day, I decided to keep Wednesday relatively low key. I spent the day at K10 working on some personal items (and draft 27 of Goodbye: The Sequel) before a much-needed phone date back home. After spilling my guts on all the feelings to Kristen, Tarun and I set off to find burgers for dinner. We had a lovely conversation getting to know more about each other before heading off for sunset volleyball back at Kayak Beach Bar.

Thank you to all my friends for your patience, support and guidance!

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Thursday brought Marcus back into our lives for another history lesson. We met at the historic, independent Kino Aero theater for a private viewing of Anthropoid. After grabbing a bite, Marcus provided a brief introduction to what we were about to witness, the lights went down, and the film began.

Now, I’m purposely not going to provide much information on the film because I would rather each of you watch for yourselves. It is an incredibly impactful story of heroism and tragedy that took place during World War II – go watch!

Following the film, we had a private Q&A with Marcus followed by a walking tour of Prague to the historical sights. This was an very unique and eye-opening experience, making me realize how little I know and understand about the war and those impacted. Dry eyes were not guaranteed.

Breaking News: The Anthropoid Movie tour is now offered publicly!

That night gave us an opportunity to let loose with karaoke! It was only a matter of time before we found a karaoke bar…many thanks to Tara for planning! As we gathered at BER.LIN Bar, we started to peruse the song list while getting sufficiently liquored up to belt out our favorite hits. This was an awesome underground bar with delicious drinks and a great atmosphere – check it out! They also served one of the best shots I have EVER tasted – caprese shots and yes, it tasted like a caprese salad.

As the night rolled on, we made our way through song after song, with everything from solos to duets to the full Spice Girls gang! You bet I was up there to sing Wannabe. I went with my signature selections and graced the stage with Colin for a fabulous round of Don’t Stop Believin’. We also had a few incredible standouts from John, Christian with the country twang (and Africa!) and Erica’s unmatched talk singing with interpretive dancing. Christian and I closed out with a stunning rendition of Closing Time before hitting KFC with Cody and John for some late night fried foods. It was a night not to be forgotten!

Friday morning, Carol hosted a small group consciousness workshop. It was an interesting and grounding experience that revealed how self-conscious we can be. For one exercise, we sat across from a partner, held hands and looked into each other’s eyes. While holding hands eventually became soothing, looking at each other held some discomfort. Not only did I feel the constant focus on me, I also felt as though I was delving into the depths of my partner, almost an invasion of their privacy. After some time, it began to get slightly more comfortable as we each settled in, but the ensuing discussion offered some interesting insights into how we each react and think. However, this was a unique and very personal group experience, so I’ll have to leave it at that!

After our consciousness workshop, I was off for a long overdue massage. For anyone who doesn’t know, my back is a mess and regular chiropractic visits and monthly massages helped keep it in check throughout my time in NY. Constant traveling, however, can wreak havoc so I was very grateful when Tereza had a recommendation at the ready!

Following an afternoon of recovery, and with a big track event looming on the horizon, I decided to treat myself to solo date night dinner at Bad Jeff’s Barbecue. This was a regular staple for many throughout our time in Prague with delicious food offering a reminder of home. With a chill night at a board game bar on the agenda, I asked for the check so I could wrap up a few things before meeting the group. As I pulled out my credit card to pay, I noticed a slight problem – the name on the card wasn’t mine!

It shouldn’t be too surprising that many of us have the same travel reward credit cards, meaning many of our cards look exactly the same. It seems two cards got swapped while paying for drinks at karaoke night, so with a slight change in plans, I pulled out my backup, paid and started to track down my card. After a few failed attempts at meeting up with the new keeper of my credit card, I gave in and found my way to Bohemia Boards and Brews. The wait staff doesn’t just serve food and drinks – they are also game experts who recommend and teach new games! We spent a nice relaxing evening learning to play Ticket to Ride, where you try to build railways across the country and have more city connections than your opponents. It was pretty fun if you’re looking for a new game! Afterwards, I called it a night to get some sleep.

Saturday morning began our trip to Bohemian Switzerland! We loaded the bus and realized we were missing a few people from our headcount. Turns out John & Colin took a bit of an unexpected detour on the way to our meeting place! After helping guide them to our location, we began our scenic ride to the town of Decin, where we would be grabbing lunch before starting our hike in the national park. According to Danny, there is nothing more Czech than taking a Saturday to get out of Prague and into the peaceful countryside!

As our bus got further into the wilderness, I received an unexpected message regarding my credit card. Over the course of the night, it had either been lost or stolen…not exactly the news I wanted to hear. You can probably imagine how upset I was, especially when I discovered I was unable to put a hold on my card from the bank’s app! Add to that the six hour time difference to the US, the fact it was a Saturday and that reception was quickly dwindling. Unable to place a call and knowing my parents wouldn’t be too happy about a 4AM wakeup, there wasn’t much left for me to do.

Generally, in situations like this, I’m okay so long as I can take action, allowing me to feel some degree of control. Sitting on a bus with no cell service and no way of preventing the use of my card left me frustrated, angry and overwhelmed. But all I could do was wait and try not to let my mood ruin my day. Many thanks to my wonderful seat mate John, who let me vent before a little therapy session on control, expectations and a pep talk to take back my day.

We then got a bit of entertainment with a brief and unexpected bathroom break on the side of the road for two of the Kai-rew who couldn’t quite make it through the two hour bus ride – at least they were staying hydrated! Shortly thereafter, we pulled into town and headed to the restaurant for a traditional Czech lunch. I can’t say this is my favorite type of food, being heavy with the gravy but we had some lively conversation as we prepared to set off for our hike.

Now that it was past 6AM CST, I took the chance and made a call home. I thanked my lucky stars that my dad was awake and explained the situation. He promised to stop by the bank that morning to speak with a banker on my behalf as I let out a sigh of relief. Still frustrated with my inability to take care of credit card matters, I decided to hold back at the end of the group for our hike to introvert a bit and bring my focus to the beauty around me. I figured it would be a good opportunity to play around with my camera too, until the rain clouds threatened.

Hemen and I kept each other company as we hiked up and up, eventually joining up with Danny to finish off our ascent. It was a beautiful hike that brought us to the famous Pravčice Gate and Falcon’s Nest. At the top, I discovered…cell service! After some back and forth texting, my mom called from the bank so we could all talk to the banker and get things figured out. We were able to work through the necessary identification requirements to cancel and order a new credit card and I hung up with a sigh of relief.

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Camera in hand, I explored the views, took some group shots, and found a peaceful little perch for some peace and quiet – sometimes you just need to be alone with a gorgeous view. As our time at the top came to an end, our group enjoyed the hike back down and boarded our bus for the journey home. We caught a few sleepyheads napping and took the obligatory photos as we made our way back to the center of Prague.

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