The Spirit of Prague

Ivan Klíma wrote the following in The Spirit of Prague – For me, the material and spiritual centre of this city is an almost 700-year-old stone bridge connecting the west with the east. The Charles Bridge is an emblem of the city's situation in Europe, the two halves of which have been seeking each other out at the very least since the bridge's foundations were laid. The West and the East.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Classes Begin

Classes began this week. It's been a whirlwind. It's felt busy and hectic to me, but I can't imagine how it is for the students... still slightly dazed from their trip, from the sudden immersion into a new country, a new place to stay, a new group of people, and for most, this is their first time abroad. They finished finals, hopped on planes Thursday, arrived Friday. Then, they experienced a weekend that had to be a blur of events...followed by a long day of classes on Monday, two birthday celebrations in the group already, a long day of classes Tuesday that ended at the top of Petrin Tower and was followed by a long, leisurely walk back through the park, and more classes today.

I admire them. They are handling it extremely well. At their age, I would not have handled things as openly and positive as these young people. At their age, I was face first in platters of illegal substances, quitting jobs because I felt too good to go to work, and dropping out of college. At their age, I would have already either quit, woke up in a foreign jail, or punched a hole in the wall. These students are jumping in, fully, completely, openly. I admire them.

I have kept my classes pretty simple to start. I begin with checking in on their mental states, their sleep, eating habits, adjustments. We've done some light exercises, and a few readings. Mostly, though, I am bringing them along slowly. In Prague, less than a week in, the experience is doing my work for me. I was shown, and in turn, showed the students, this amazing little pekárna (bakery) near our classroom. CZK 18 for a little 3-4 bite sandwich on heavenly bread. This is less than a dollar (or right about a dollar). We've been twice already! It's hectic and busy in there, and difficult to order, but it's been a great, real live learning experience for all.

And then today, I found another one by accident. I wandered up another street, and saw this charming storefront. I stopped to look in. Another woman walking by stopped and did the same thing. The bakery countered beckoned with treats. She went in. I followed.

This place, called Jungmannovo pekařství, was grand. Today, for lunch, I got a ham and cheese croissant sandwich, a strawberry flavored water, and a piece of chocolate pudding cake dusted perfectly with powdered sugar all for CZK85 - less than $5 - and it was tasty! Jungmannovo pekařství. It's a long name and a place I will go back to, for sure.

Our classroom is in the middle of this raucous part of the city. Vodičkova and Lazarská. Tram lines, traffic, cobblestone streets, just so much noise and city energy. Yet, our classroom is tucked away, and in this lovely little courtyard back off the streets. It's quiet. There's a great little café with fantastic espresso in the courtyard. I was able to meet a few students there, just to do some individual check-ins. 

Yes, they are doing great coming together, but I can see issues coming. Nothing too serious, but with this many people thrown together, personalities will arise. Mediation will be necessary. Classes will continue. I have faith in these students, and even though conflicts will naturally come, I can see them working it out. I believe in them, and the power of this experience, this city, to overcome.

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