Thursday, June 4, 2009

Understanding Culture and Some Embarrassing Events

I like to think that I am a conscientious traveler and I am sensitive to other cultures, especially the one I am visiting. That is the way of the traveler is it not?  For some reason, there are certain people who have not read the rule book, can you imagine that?

On Kissing Czech Men – Just Shake Hands

I have made one little faux pas on the trip when I kissed a Czech man on the cheeks.  I learned this by the hard way. When I met Igor’s friends Eugenie and her husband, I naturally went to kiss and embrace her, no problem there, but apparently one only shakes hands with the man. Sorry George, I been traveling in countries were a kiss is not only appropriate but expected. It is my mistake for not reading my guidebook a bit better. 

I decided I better brush up on my Czech manners quickly as to not embarrass anyone else. I now know that I need to pick up flowers to take to their home on Friday evening where I will be going for dinner. Which incidentally, I am very excited to be invited to a local home. It even gets better, I have been invited to their country home on Saturday.

Yesterday I had a bit of a shock when I went to the refrigerator and  found that all my food and my insulated lunch sack was gone. I was shocked and angry. In all these years of backpacking nothing had been taken before.  It made me very angry and I kept telling myself that it everything is missing because of a misunderstanding.

The conversation with myself was much easier than the believing. I saw this incident as a lesson, was it a lesson about letting go? A lesson about still having trust even when confronted with a situation like this? Or was it learning that I should assume the best, that it was a misunderstanding, rather than the worst,someone took it?

I was having the worst time dealing with this situation, I preferred my preprogrammed response: anger, rather than than assuming the best. After all I lost a total of about $5 worth of stuff and that was not of any great consequence in the end.

I even had trouble sleeping, I was tossing around my emotions and wanting to let go, trying to assume the best, and feeling in my heart of hearts that an explanation would come in the morning. I now was sure this my chance to learn this lesson.

This morning the Ukrainian housekeeper came to speak to me, in Ukrainian (another language I do not speak) with the note I had written and left by the refrigerator asking if anyone accidently took my bag with the food. While I did not understanding her words, I understood what she was basically saying, that she had taken the food and bag and that is was a mistake.  I hugged her and told her it was alright. We then walked up to the front desk, as I wanted to understand exactly what she was saying. They also do not speak Ukrainian, but what happened was the owner asked her to clean out another refrigerator and she misunderstood and cleaned out the communal one. I think she has my bag at home  and will bring it in tomorrow.  Eureka, I was right it was a misunderstanding, no one had taken anything. I hope I have learned my lesson, as I do not relish going through this unnecessary angst ever again.

Sharing Space with Strangers

Next cultural issue -  I am staying in what they call an apartment, basically two doubles with a shared bathroom. Not a bad setup if I have to share a bathroom. Last night I noticed a new couple had moved in, but did not see them. This morning I hear lots of Japanese conversation outside my door and plenty of coming and going. I thought the Japanese are quiet people.  Hey ladies I am trying to sleep in here, have you no respect? Then when I wake up to use the toilet all the doors are wide open to the outside and I am minimally clad and freezing.  I saw them later and tried to explain about locking the front door but when I came back from breakfast it was closed but not locked.  At least there is a key to my room and I can lock my door. I also had to clear my things out of the bathroom because my razor was open and my toothbrush was moved – you don’t think they were shaving with my razor do you?

I Need to Learn to Have More Patience When People Show How Ignorant They Are – Especially Americans

You may be American, but do not speak for all Americans, thank you. This morning I had a nice chat in the breakfast room with several other people about museums to visit. One person, an American said that Kafka is not well known in the United States. Kafka and his family lived here, his sisters perished in a concentration camp, he survived.  They have a Kafka museum in Prague which is how his name came up. Apparently this American never had to read Kafka in school and had never heard of his before, strange?

Bottom Line on Cultural Observations

All of this is part of the experience of traveling, it is not just the sightseeing and drinking in the external culture. It is part of being human and living amongst strangers.


This morning I am doing my laundry. Then it is off to the train station to buy my ticket to Krakow, to take the night train on Sunday. In Krakow, I was unable to book a single ensuite,  therefore I will have a single with a shared bath. Today I hope to hit a museum and or some galleries. I need to figure that all out soon.

1 comment:

Donna Tennant said...

Hi Joanne! I wake up every morning, feed the cats and Gigi, then take my coffee to my computer to travel vicariously to Prague. I am enjoying your tweets, pics, and blog must seem strange to you that I am still in school, as it seems strange to me as well. I am having to pack up and move everything out of my room in case I get the faculty position at CyFair CC, so I have been busy since my seniors finished their exams on Tuesday. If I stay at North Shore, I will be in a new (to me) new (to the school) room with a window! Also, I will be teaching a couple of pre-AP classes in a team of core teachers, so, to use a tired cliche, it's a win-win situation. Still, it would be awesome to return to teaching in my field and running a small gallery, dontcha think? Keep on writing, and we will keep on reading!