Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the grandparents are here!

Jonah's Montana grandparents arrived yesterday. It's their first time in Prague. Jonah, of course, is in seventh heaven, and we're excited to show them around.

Here is a sampling of some of the things we have planned: a walk around the Prague Castle and a tour of the Czech Senate; a day trip to the 660-year-old Karlštejn castle; and a day trip to the UNESCO town of Český Krumlov, founded in the 13th century. Of course, there will be time with the extended family: my dad & wife & my maternal grandmother. Tim's parents were also invited to see the Fiddler On The Roof at the theater which my father runs.

Today we walked through Prague's Old Town, weaving in and out of groups of tourists and soaking in the sights and spring sunshine.

More pics coming soon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

will it happen again?

Today Jonah and I participated in a Yom HaShoah ceremony by reading some of the names of those who died in the Holocaust. Many of my relatives died in the Holocaust.

Every time I walk the streets of the oldest parts of Prague, I think about this:

At the outbreak of World War II, over 92,000 Jews lived in Prague, almost 20 percent of the city’s population. Prague was one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. At least two-thirds of the Jewish population of Prague perished in the Holocaust (. . .) More than a quarter of a million Czechoslovak Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and more than 60 synagogues in the Czech lands were destroyed.

My father's parents, both Jewish, were concentration camp survivors. My mother's grandfather was also. He was a political prisoner. A communist. I think about how lucky I am to be alive and how lucky that my son is here.

Jonah was one of the only children at the commemoration in the big Square of Peace, or Náměstí Míru. Though I didn't plan to meet up with anyone there, after I read my page of names, my father walked up to me. He was there too, as was my maternal grandmother.

While I read the names of the victims into the microphone, I held Jonah, who surprised me by speaking softly and shyly into the microphone as I spoke. After each name, I said the year and camp of the person's death, followed by a word explaining the person's death - in most cases "zavražděna," or "murdered." I couldn't make out what Jonah was saying so quietly, but the word I heard him repeat over and over was "zavřena," which means closed.

I tried to explain to him the significance of this memorial, in a way that a three-year-old can grasp. He asked many questions like: "Why did they put them in prison?" and "Why didn't they like them?" and "Did I die in a war?" and "Did you die?"

Finally, after I satisfactorily explained the basic concept of what happened during the war, which he understood as he is already fascinated with weapons, fighting, and wrestling, he asked: "Will it happen again?"

I wish I could say that it won't and it isn't. I said that I will protect him and that I hope it will never happen again, knowing all too well that genocide, hatred and war are still rampant today.

I not only remembered the Jews who perished at the hand of the Nazis. There were also political prisoners, the Roma (Gypsies), gays and lesbians, and religious men and women.

Today, fascism still plagues the Czech Republic as well as many other parts of the world. Just last Sunday there was a neo-Nazi march in a city in the north of the Czech Republic, where I lived as a little girl. Around 300 fascists marched, flanked by 1250 police, most in riot gear.

Just two days ago, a molotov cocktail thrown through a window of a house in a small Czech town, severely burned a Roma family, including a two-year-old child. Such hate crimes are on the rise here and across Europe and the United States.

I want to do my part to curb hate and oppression. Somehow. I try, but I still feel compelled to try harder.

Monday, April 13, 2009

a weekend for kings

What a relaxing Easter weekend we had!

First, it was off to the 900-year-old castle Křivoklát, as I said in my last post.

The next day, we spent the afternoon with my grandmother. As usual, she treated us like kings, preparing a tasty meal for us and then accompanying us to one of the funnest playgrounds for kids. Jonah had a blast. The city is so much friendlier and cheerier filled with warmth and sunshine.

We finished off the holiday with some relaxation at my dad's in the countryside. We sat around and chatted while Jonah played with a neighbor kid, the same age as he: heaven for the parents who could actually carry on an uninterrupted adult conversation or just plain rest. Those who have only children will understand.

Czech Easter tradition dictates that girls and women get whipped with hand-braided whips made from willow switches. For that purpose, I brought a pillow to stuff into my pants to pad my behind: an Easter butt, as Jonah aptly dubbed it. My little gallant knight was ready to protect me. When I told him all about how the Czechs celebrate Easter, he decided -- instead of the predictable "oh great, time to whip the girls like there's no tomorrow" -- to be my protector and to use his weapons to ward off all the evil whipping maniacs. Fortunately I am so old that I only got whipped by my dad just so I don't think I've been forgotten: two light taps on my Easter tush. What a change from the time when I was younger when Easter was the most terrifyingly electrifying holiday. That and St. Nicholas Day when the devil comes to take bad children to hell. On his first Easter in the old country, Tim stayed out of this strange pagan ritual. No "when in Rome, do as the Romans do." Instead, he buried his nose in his New York Times bestseller.

After the whipping, we were served a great lunch by my step-mom, and then, along with another family, we accompanied my dad on his favorite activity: fishing. My dad picked a spot that had a huge, fat sign specifying that fishing is strictly forbidden in the lake. That fact obviously posed no obstacle. About a half hour into our fete, the actual owner of the lake showed up and set up shop across the water from us. He seemed not to care we were there at all. Perhaps he already knew my dad and had worked out some sort of a deal with him. No one knew for sure, but our fishing expedition continued unhindered.

The ladies just sat there, chiding the men who competed in how many carp each caught and released. The boys fished out slimy grass with sticks, calling the green stuff fish and taking turns frying it for each other. Fun times. Jonah got his first sunburn on his arms. Not to worry. It was very mild.

For more pics, go here and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Though we didn't in any way celebrate Passover since my dad is one of those ultra assimilated types, I did get a box of matzah to take home. Jonah thought the biggest cracker he has ever eaten was so cool. I am glad, because I was already thinking of reviewing the video I watched last year about all the many things one can do with matzah:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

castle time on Easter

Now that spring is here, the sun is shining, the birds chirping, and plants are coming to life again, my mood has lifted. The gray winter seemed so long, but now that it's warm enough just for a t-shirt and shorts outside, new possibilities lay ahead.

Today we ventured out to yet another castle; this one, one of the oldest, 900-years-old, to be exact. Křivoklát, like most others, hide among the hills until one approaches quite close. It's behind the last bend in the curvy road, just when you think you're lost, that a magnificent castle appears on the mountain ahead, close enough to be standing on the palm of your hand.

This weekend is the second most important holiday one after Christmas in the Czech calendar. Easter is about crafts and folk tradition, including some wacky pagan ones. We decided to visit Křivoklát, because they were hosting a traditional artisan market with musical and theatrical performances right in the courtyard.

A superb band named Krless, specializing in medieval vagrant music, played. They got the kids dancing right away. I was tempted too, but no other adults were even tapping their feet -- the typical Czechs they were --, so I decided to just stick to a few miniscule knee bends and claps here and there to punctuate the most exciting parts in the music. Jonah, on the other hand, pranced around the courtyard like he owned it, with his new sword and shield. Tim tied a handkerchief around Jonah's head to complete his pirate look. When I told Jonah that I really enjoyed his dancing, he that said he wasn't dancing, but driving a pirate truck. Right, I should have known.

The market was fun. Lots of neat pottery, glass, semi-precious stone, leather, iron, and woven products. The food carts were something: meat and more meat, of course, and a traditional, beautifully decorated smoked cheese. Pics here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

first joint poetry project

Here is the first poem Jonah and I have ever written together. This was on April 2.

Rhyme Time

There was once a duck,
rodie, pocky Mortimer Tuck.

Piddy goat, Five Dive Hive,
went along the road to a pond.

Donald Duck went to the water
and pooped in the water:

All his clothes were torn.
Then what did he do?
Make a whistle on the poo.

By pape poh pope,
he ate a rope.

Yuck, said the duck.
Yuck, said the mommy.
You growed a poppy.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

to protect and serve

Remember last fall I wrote about Jonah wanting to protect me by fighting the subway fair inspectors the day I forgot my pass? Today we were riding home from school when we saw the ticket checkers approaching. As I had predicted, they never checked me. I told Jonah that I thought they wouldn't because they never seem to check parents with kids. He asked why. I don't know, I said. I've just noticed that. To that he replied:

"Maybe they're scared of kids."

"Why?" I asked.

"Maybe they're scared of kids shooting."

Oh yes. That would be kids like him, protecting their mommies by shooting down the ticket inspectors. My little prince. Love him so.

Actually, even funnier than that, the other day I asked Tim to remind me of what the police motto was. He said: "To protect and serve," to which Jonah responded in the midst of playing policeman: "But I am not serve. I just protect." Too proud to serve, but never too proud to use his weapons!

Friday, April 03, 2009

my little pirate

Jonah's favorite make-belief characters of late have been:

garbage man

Thanks for the cross-Atlantic eye patch, Gma & Gpa!