Sunday, August 25, 2002

Triumphant Reentry and the Joys of Flooding

I'm back safely in Prague. I arrived here on Wednesday of last week, and was greeted at the airport by an old student, Petr Herman. He took me to Hotel Dum, which I'll be staying in again this year. I dropped my stuff off there, then went to the school to pick up a key for the apartment at Hurka where I left my things from last year. Eva, Pavla, and Petra were at the school when I arrived, so I greeted them and got the key. Then we went to Hurka, grabbed my stuff, and took it all to Hotel Dum. All of this took most of the afternoon, because the traffic in Prague is terrible right now.

The flooding here was quite bad. They estimate it to have caused $3 billion in damages, and I think that's only in Prague. Cesky Krumlov was almost completely wiped out, at least the parts of it directly on the river. Other towns and cities also have heavy damage, if they were on the Vltava river.

The subway flooded here, so all the stops that were below river level were filled with water. I think it was 22 stops. Petr told me that some of the tunnels collapsed, although he might not have known what he was saying exactly. He could have meant that part of the metro system was shut down. Other people I've talked to have said that none of the tunnels collapsed. (Editor's note: None of the tunnels had collapsed, Petr and I simply had a miscommunication. He meant that the trains on some of the lines were not running.)

Anyway, now transportation is a tremendous problem. Large parts of the subway system are shut down, and are not expected to be reopened until December. From Hotel Dum, travel times are increased to possibly an hour and twenty minutes one way, during the week, instead of 30 minutes. Past Muzeum, the red line is completely shut down. From Hurka it's even worse, because that whole metro line is almost completely shut down. The guys at the apartment have to take the metro one stop, transfer to a bus which takes them to Andel, and then take a tram downtown from there. Their travel time to the school is now no shorter than an hour and ten minutes, and could probably take as long as 2 hours during the week. I'm thankful that I got a last minute opportunity to live in Hotel Dum again, although I feel sorry for them.

There are only 3 out of 9 bridges open over the river in Prague now. That means the 25 minute trip from Hotel Dum to the apartment now takes 2 hours due to traffic pileup. It's a pretty bad situation, but of course we'll live.

Two of the guys have not arrived here yet. They're Canadian, and don't have visas, which means they can't enter the country until those come through. Although several of the other teachers don't have their visas yet, they were able to come in as tourists, since they're American, which will keep them here for 30 days until their visas come through. Due to that factor, and the flooding, the director is going to postpone the school's start by one week. That's a welcome break for us.

She said that we can spend that week sightseeing or whatever. I'm sure it will be spent preparing for classes though, at least mostly. Yesterday was the first day everyone met together, and I think we've got a good group this year. It's different than last year, of course. We have 7 guys and 3 girls. Slightly different balance than 8 girls / 2 guys. Eva took us to eat at Little Buddha for lunch, and then I showed everybody around the castle and went through the cathedral.

Today, Lucka and Big Petr showed up for lunch, so we introduced them to all the new teachers. Then after the afternoon service, we all went out to Divoka Sarka (wild sara). That's a big park on the edge of Prague with a canyon (small) running through it. We played some frisbee out there with my new smiley-face frisbee, which I picked up while working at the Samaritan Center this summer. It's identical to the one Jerry had last year, so that was quite a find.

After that, we all hung around on the very large hill that overlooks the rest of the park, and relaxed for a while. We're still in the stage where everyone looks, and is, exhausted and dazed, including me. I guess they call it jet-lag. It will probably last for a few more days.

I spoke a lot of Czech with Lucka and Petr, and have found that I understand a tremendous amount more than when I left. I have no idea why that might be, because I haven't studied, but in the past I've found that whenever I take a break from something for a month or two and come back to it later, I've improved a great deal. I can actually understand some of the conversations I hear on the streets now. It's absolutely amazing. I'm fairly confident that I will be conversational by Christmas. Mind you, that's not fluent, just conversational. In my opinion, it's not possible for a non-native speaker to be completely fluent in Czech. Anyway, that's about all for now. I'll write more as more things happen and such. Have a good week everyone.


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