Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Working on my roots

When I turned ten, I defined sophistication as the ability to successfully harbor candy in your purse. My grandmother has that gift, but I thought I never would. Unscabbed knees and manicured nails, a pack of almost full peppermint lifesavers in my pocketbook - on the advent of adulthood and my first double digit birthday I couldn’t imagine a time when I might reach a level of maturity and self control able to pull off all three. Twenty some years later, my knees stay unscathed, and I don’t bite my nails any more, but I’m still not very good at approaching candy or life one tasty tidbit at a time. I don’t have the patience and when it comes down to it, I don’t really have that type of long term attention span.

So when I revved up another one of my New Year’s resolution this week (to learn more Czech by practicing it a little each day) I had to hold myself back from jumping in and trying to memorize a chapter of words. I decreed I’d learn one word per day, and then I tried to choose a word, the first word for my list. stood in as my rosetta stone. I skimmed through several stories, trying to find a common word, something I could use in daily life and hear with regularity, something worth focusing on for one whole day. I finally picked snížit because it showed up several times in a row, and I like a word with a z in it. Thirty seconds later, I’d typed snížit = to decrease, lower into my word list, and I was done. One word seemed a tiny, futile step towards improving my Czech and resolving my resolutions. I wanted another word, something more substantial. Reaching for my dictionary, I realized I was once again about to pull the bubble gum pack from my pocket and chew through it all in one sitting.

Then I noticed three letters buried in snížit: niz. Niz - its root. I wrote a new decree in my head (one root per day), and then, my sweet tooth for words on the way to being sated, settled down to foxing out some of niz’s relations.

snížit = decrease
nízký = low
nízce = basely
nižší = lower
Nizozemsko = the Netherlands

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Lada Winter? Come, Spring

Josef Lada sledding sceneIt’s easy to agree that it has been a long long winter here in Prague. A few weeks ago we flew off to more southern parts, hoping that by the time we came home again the snow would be gone for good and spring in its place. Instead, we barely missed the biggest snowstorm of the winter and flew home on a plane packed with people who had missed their flights the day before and were ready to remove themselves from the hard comforts of JFK even if they had to arm wrestle for a seat. There was a collective sigh of relief when Smetana burst out of the loud speakers as we landed in Prague and I thought that, perhaps finally, someone on the plane might start smiling. Then I looked out the window at the snow drifts and decided our fellow passengers might have a point.

In commiserating over the winter last week, at least three of our Czech friends (and Radio Prague) pointed out to me Jaromir Nohavica’s new song now available on his website. "Ladovska Zima", or "Lada Winter", invokes the beauty of an old fashioned winter as illustrated by Josef Lada (children on sleds, quaint and beautiful views) and then teases and fusses along with us, will it ever be over, enough is enough already with this white mess (bílé svinstvo). You can download the song from the nohavica website, here. It sounds even sweeter now that the sun has melted most of the "svinstvo" away.

Oh, and if you noticed the template change - Blogger is messing with their system apparently and the result is playing havoc with my old template. I'm going to hold onto this one for a bit before I try to switch back, or update to something new, it is time for spring cleaning after all!.

Josef Lada image courtesy of Radio Prague.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Back again

I haven't retired, just disappeared for two weeks into vacation, then spent last week wandering about with jetlag and so much work drifted up, I wanted to go outside and borrow a shovel from the guy clearing our sidewalk of the massive snowfall that arrived in Prague just before we did.

More tomorrow.