Lately

It seems like forever since I wrote my last post. Too many things have happened that I couldn’t seem to put them in order.

Anyhow, we’ve had several visits this summer and early fall. First off, my husband’s cousin and her son from Moravia to spend a weekend with us.  We brought them to Prague and Kutna Hora, since it has been awhile since they visited these  beautiful cities.

Here’s a picture of us in front of one of the most beautiful churches here in the Czech Republic, the St. Barbora Church in Kutna Hora.

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The weather was not in our favor during their visit but we were still able to snap some beautiful pictures of Prague.  It is breathtaking in any weather.

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My friend Melba and her daughter also spent some time with us.  It was nice for the babies to see each other again.  This time, we contacted some alumni from the university where we had our bachelors and had a mini reunion in a cafe in Prague.

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A couple of weeks ago, My friend Mymy also came for a visit with her son.  She lives in Prague and it was her first long out of town drive since she got her license a year ago.  She also has a toddler who is close to Michaela’s age, so it was nice sharing motherhood experiences with her.

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Lastly, my son has started going to a state primary school and my daughter is turning one pretty soon.  How time flies.

Photo credit:  Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)
Photo credit: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

It seems like only yesterday since we made the significant decision to move here in CZ.  Since then, every year is marked with significant milestones.

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Adventures in Vltava

One of the most popular past times among Czechs is water rafting and canoeing.

A couple of weeks ago, we were with some friends in Kemp Branna, a camp close to the Vltava river.  The main purpose of our trip was water rafting.    It was also the first time for us to go camping with the kids.  Although, we didn’t stay in a tent because my daughter was way too young for this kind of accommodation.  There was an option to stay in a little cottage, so that’s what we opted for.  The camp was quite nice and the facilities were clean and very well-developed.

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The day we arrived, my kids immediately socialized at the camp.

Because my daughter is still a baby, we decided to split the next day’s activity.  The boys went with the rest of the group on a raft, while we girls spent our time travelling in a car or on foot.

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Can you see my boy?  Good I wasn’t there on the boat with them.  I’d be nervous to let him sit on the edge of the boat.  But I was glad he had this experience.  At least he won’t be as wimpy as his mommy.

Anyhow, my daughter and I followed them to Rozmberk where we all had lunch, and I had the opportunity to snap this photo of the castle.

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I didn’t get the chance to go inside, but was happy viewing it from the outside.

Under pristine waters, it looks very serene.

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The rest of the afternoon was a bonding trip for me and my daughter.  We went to the medieval old town, Cesky Krumlov.

Look who’s enjoying the ride.

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We also went to a small park adjacent to the castle where we relaxed a bit…..

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…and we had our first “date” in a coffee shop.  Although I was the only one who had coffee.

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All in all the trip was a great bonding experience for me and my daughter, and for my husband and our son.

Hopefully next time, we will all be in the raft together.

Babies Bonding

These past few weeks, I consider myself lucky to  have been visited by good friends.  On my last entry, I mentioned about the Swiss family that visited us.  This past week, our good friends from Innsbruck came by for a visit.

My friend Melba, with her daughter Nat, came and stayed with us for a couple of days.  Nat and Michaela were born a few months apart.  It was the first time they met.

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It was fun seeing the girls bonding with Jakub.

It was also interesting to see them talking to each other in their own little world.

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We got them identical bows, and placed them together in a mat for a photo shoot.

But it was a little bit difficult to get them to stay still and look at the camera.  Something else is always more interesting.

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Until finally….

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…Bam!  We eventually managed to get the coveted shot.

But more than anything else, the visit was more valuable for the mommies.  It was very therapeutic for Melba and I to talk about our experiences in raising kids in a multicultural household, adjusting to life in a foreign land, and most especially about adjusting to life as a stay-at-home mom.

We never got the chance to visit a lot of places due to the weather and to the children’s moods, but I had a great time just chatting with Melba and seeing our kids playing together.

At the end of their visit, Nat’s dad and her grandma picked them up.  Obviously, they have been missed.

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Luckily, we managed to get a group shot before they left.

I wish we were closer so a visit like this can be done more often.  But I can’t complain.  At least we get to see each other almost every year.

 

A Swiss-Filipino Family Came to Town

I didn’t realize that it’s almost been a month since my last post.  Life has been going at full speed and I hardly have time to pen down my thoughts.

Anyhow, we had some guests from Switzerland last week.  It was my friend Mayette, her Swiss husband Thomas, and their very cute daughter, Thomara.

I’ve known Mayette since my university days, and we recently reconnected after knowing that both of us are married to Europeans.

After a long trip to and from Sweden, they decided to swing by Czech Republic.  Jakub had a blast when he got an early Easter bunny, with nothing but the best chocolate – Lindt.

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Their daughter Thomara is only a month older than Michaela, so they are technically batchmates.    It was funny getting the two babies to meet.

Looking eye to eye, they look like they couldn’t believe there’s actually another person the same size as them.

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We finally got them to look at the camera, but were unable to goad them in eliciting a smile.

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There was a little bit of movement, as they got curious about the other.

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But after putting them in the car, they both went down easily.

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My little boy on the other hand, acted like an older brother.

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He was happy to look after the girls while their parents were busy taking pictures.

And here he is happily posing for a photo with our guests.

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We brought them to Kutna Hora and to Prague, but three days was not enough to see everything.

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They did say they were going to come back and we are really looking forward to that.  Otherwise, we will have to visit them in Switzerland.

 

 

My Growing Belly….and Family

I am now on my 35th week of pregnancy and as anxious as ever to give birth.  Albeit, life had never been more hectic lately.  I had been keeping myself busy with arranging my children’s bedrooms and making checklist after checklist of all the things we would need for the baby while at the same time checking my toddler’s needs.    One tricky thing about raising children is that they grow very fast – literally.  With the changing season, I have to constantly check that my son has adequate and appropriate clothing for the day’s weather.  Last season’s pants are now too short, and although he didn’t gain much horizontally, some of his shirts are also getting shorter.  I know that I will not be able to do a lot of shopping when the baby arrives, so I have now stocked up on some fall and winter clothing.  Plus, I made sure that all his vaccinations and doctor and dentist check-ups are up-to-date, and made an effort to schedule some of these appointments ahead of time so I will not have to worry about it when I have another child to take care of.  As you may notice, I am a freak when it comes to organizing things.  I believe that in order to be successful in anything, adequate preparation has to be done and that means everything has to be well-organized.

I have also been reading about how to help older siblings cope with the arrival of a new member of the family.  It is said that since all the attention will now be focused on the baby, it is important for parents to be mindful of the older child.   My husband and I have already talked about it and we have decided to involve Jakub in everything that has to do with his sister — from helping out with diaper changes to being on the lookout for hazards that may be harmful to the baby.  Almost everyday, I remind him that he is going to be a big brother soon and I am happy to note that he exhibits a certain sense of pride in his new role.

Anyway,  we had a maternity photo session last week to document the anticipation of our little one’s arrival.  I am sharing with you some of my favorite shots.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

It is normally difficult to get a toddler’s full attention in this type of activity, but my little boy was surprisingly enjoying it.  He was willing to oblige to every pose and was always excited to check out his own image in the camera after a shot was taken.

Here’s one of my favorite photos.  The big brother communicating with his baby sister.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

She is already loved.

Photo: Jan Strnad
Photo by : Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

My growing belly….and family.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

We still have about a month to go before we finally meet her.  I feel SO HUGE that it seems like there’s no more room left for growing.  This is the longest month ever.  Although I am suffering from all the discomfort that pregnancy brings, I am happily looking forward to finally hold my little girl in my arms.

Enjoying the outdoors in Obergurgl

During our visit to Innsbruck, our friends Melba and Cez took us to a beautiful, quaint village in the alps called Obergurgl.  This village is mainly a tourist spot with only 400 permanent inhabitants.  In winter, it is a very popular ski spot and in summer a very popular hiking spot.

Photo courtesy of Cezary Kaliszyk
Photo courtesy of Cezary Kaliszyk

We chose a very easy route that is convenient for pregnant women and small children.  Moving away from the village and onto the trail, these were the sights we saw.

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Some of the lifts were still open for those who wish  to view the sights from up above.  I decided against going on one because of my current state and my fear of heights.

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Our guys led the way with my little boy tagging along.  Melba and I followed slowly behind.  Both of us are pregnant and the decreasing oxygen was quite taxing for our lungs.  Besides, it was also a great time to chat and catch up.

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As they ascended higher, we decided to stay behind at a shaded, comfortable spot.

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While waiting, we amused ourselves by watching other serious hikers conquer more difficult trails.

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Meanwhile, our boys had a grand time in their trail.   My husband was so proud of our little boy for walking all the way through the almost 3km loop with around 2500 ft elevation.

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And here they are, posing for posterity.

Photo courtesy of Cezary Kaliszyk
Photo courtesy of Cezary Kaliszyk

On the way back, we all stopped by a nearby restaurant as we were already famished.

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Yes, I almost ate that whole serving of pizza.  Since it was very close to Italy, they do make great pizzas.

Although this wasn’t a very serious hike, it is one of the greatest one I’ve had in a long time and will definitely be one of my best memories.

Thank you Melbs and Cez for taking us there!

 

Impressive Innsbruck

As mentioned in a previous post, our main goal for last weekend’s trip was to visit  friends in Innsbruck, Austria.

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Melba is one of my closest friends from the university.  Since we had the same bachelor’s degree and lived in the same dormitory, it was only natural for us to be in the same group of friends.  All through our college years, we have shared endless discussions about our families and life goals.  Together with a few other girls, we were like a family- lending an ear and supporting each other.

After obtaining our degrees, we parted ways to follow our dreams.  While I was pursuing an ambitious goal in a manufacturing industry in the States, she went to Japan to obtain her Phd and go after her scientific pursuits.  It was during this time when we met our husbands – both Central Europeans (mine Czech, hers Polish).  Little did we know that we would end up in the same continent to raise our families.

I’m glad that we made this trip out to see them.  It was a great time for our families to bond and for both of us to catch up.

Their place is situated in a suburban location close to the mountains and not too far from the university where her husband Cez teaches.

That Saturday morning, we started our day with a full breakfast on their balcony.  It was very refreshing to be just around nature and inhale its beauty.

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We were lucky that the powers-that-be gave us good weather during our stay there.  There was nothing but sunshine which allowed us to go for a short hike and tour the downtown.

I will do a separate post on the hike because it was a pretty interesting one.

Meanwhile, here are photos of this beautiful city.

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The inner streets of the city is full of impressive buildings with a typical European feel.

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The succeeding picture is a view of the Old City watchtower, which is a popular landmark.

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Going further into town, there lies a more modern square normally used for social events.

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Innsbruck’s public transport system is very well-developed and accessible.  Trains, trams and buses can be seen moving in and around the city.

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Being in the highlands doesn’t mean it’s short of fun.   During our stroll, I was lucky to snap a quick photo of these youngsters parading the streets.

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Although, if you live in a place like this, it would be crazy not to go on a hike.  The alps are just breathtaking.

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When Melba told me that they were thinking of giving up a great opportunity in a major city in exchange for a quiet life in Innsbruck, I didn’t fully understand why.  But after experiencing this beautiful city, I now understand.

I was very impressed with this amazing city and wished it was closer so we can do more frequent visits.  But most of all, we had a great time in the company of great friends.

If you would like to learn more about Innsbruck, you can check out this page.

A Day in Munich, Germany

This past weekend, my family and I went on a road trip to 2 neighboring countries in Europe.  Our main goal was to visit dear friends in Innsbruck, Austria but since we were passing by the German state of Bavaria, we decided to make a stop  at the Bavarian capital of  Munich.  And I’m glad we did.

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Munich is the third largest city in Germany and one of the most popular expat hubs due to the big industries that are based there.

Since we only had a day to see the city, we decided to just walk around Munich’s Old Town where most of the popular sights can be found.

We got a hotel that was 3 km away from the old town so we decided to try out Munich’s public transport system.  It saved us a lot of money and it was a very easy ride.  The maps were easy to understand, the directions were well-marked and the trains were clean and efficient.

The metro had a station right at the heart of Marienplatz (Marien Square) , so it was a very convenient ride.

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Perhaps the most notable landmark in the square is the New Town Hall of Munich.  Its architecture is quite impressive.

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I wanted to get a posterity shot in front of the building, but my son was starting to get bored.  So this is the best shot we got.

Right in front of the town hall is the Marian column.

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Other buildings surrounding the square were more modern and commercialized.  As we walked a couple of blocks into one of its narrow streets, we found ourselves facing the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady, the city’s largest church.

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It was very grand and awesomely huge that I couldn’t take a full photo of it without having to stand at an elevated distance.  Anyhow, I managed to capture a few shots of the interior as it was surprisingly allowed.

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Normally, climbing on top of the church’s twin towers would have been allowed.  It is said that from those towers one can see a breathtaking view of Munich’s cityscape and the Bavarian Alps.  However, during our time there, it was undergoing some major renovation and was closed.

Anyway, we continued our walk to the Viktualienmarkt, another famous landmark.  It is the site of Munich’s daily farmer’s market.

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The colorful booths at the market offered a great variety of fresh and regional food.  We couldn’t just be there and not partake in these delicious offerings.    So we stopped for lunch at a seafood place.  I had a shrimp ciabatta sandwich while my husband had a fish sandwich.  Jakub on the otherhand had a fish fillet with potato wedges.  We also had some fresh olives from a nearby stall and were quite happy with our meals.  Everything was so delish.

After having enough fuel for the remainder of the day, we again set off for a walk passing through the Munich Opera house….

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…. and several other historical and modern buildings.

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Our final stop for the day was at the Munich Hofgarten.

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It was a great day for chasing pigeons while I  took a rest under the shaded trees.

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Munich is a beautiful city with a good blend of modern and traditional architecture.  If given the chance, I would like to spend a lot more time in this beautiful city some time.

But I was more excited for what lay ahead as we headed out to the Austrian alps.

Thankful

I just had my final class last Tuesday.   Through Skrivanek, I had been teaching English  to adult learners this past school year.  It gave me something to do while my son is out in school.

At first, I never really thought that teaching was for me.  I didn’t think I had the passion and diligence to do it well.  My mom was a high school teacher and she was very passionate about it.

When we got to the Czech Republic,  teaching was the only job I could find that didn’t require any Czech knowledge.  Since my Czech was not yet at a professional level, I thought, what the heck, I’ll try it for a year.   Little did I know that I would enjoy it and regretted that I didn’t do it sooner.  I was able to expand my network and meet new friends.

Through interaction with my students, I was also able to gain a deeper understanding of Czech culture and have come to love this country and its people.  My students were adult learners with advanced knowledge in English so teaching was not difficult at all.

I am quite sad that this chapter of my life is over, as I know I would miss it.  However, I am very thankful to all those people who were part of this life -enriching experience:  the people at Skrivanek, my students, the people at Krokodyl, who took care of my son while I was away, and especially my husband who had always been very supportive of this endeavor.

Anyway, I’d like to share with you 2 of my favorite art pieces that Jakub made in school.  As I was teaching, he was making these.

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He calls this:  “Flowers for mama.”

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Have a great weekend!

Ligo Circle of Appreciation: Czech Version

I should have done this a couple of days ago, but I somehow lost track of my own schedule.  I just realized that it is the last day today, and I sincerely apologize to Gunta who invited me to join this circle a couple of days back.

The yearly Līgo celebration happens every summer solstice in Latvia.
During that time,  participants adorn their heads with Līgos of flowers, oak leaves,
grasses and plants. Then they  join circles around bonfires and celebrate life,
and appreciation of each other.

The virtual Līgo Circle of Appreciation goes like this:

For a duration of 22 days, starting on 1st October 2012, we will be inviting 2 bloggers per day

to join the Līgo Circle of Appreciation.

PLEASE NOTE: This is an Appreciation, NOT an Award.

To fully participate in the Līgo Circle of Appreciation:
~
* Complete this sentence about blogging: ”A great blog is…

* Refer back to the blogger who invited you

Gunta of Movin’On has included me in this virtual circle of appreciation.  Gunta is a talented writer and photographer who currently lives in Oregon.  She has Latvian roots, thus, familiar with most of the cultural practices in Europe.  I have to say that I truly appreciate being connected with her through blogging since I constantly learn a thing or two in her posts.  You should see it for yourself.  Please click here to visit her blog.

For me, a great blog is one I can relate with and where I learn something new.  It also takes me to places I have never been before and introduces me to cultures I have never experienced.  There are a lot of blogs out there that have met this criteria, but since I am only able to choose 2, here are the bloggers whom I would like to invite into the circle:

I write what I like – A seasoned adventurer’s blog about the outdoors

Jolene’s Journey – A runner, teacher, and traveler’s blog about life

I am adding here some  pictures of fall in my part of the world.

The Elbe River in Kolin.

Swans on the river.

Colorful autumn leaves.

Have a great week, everyone!