By the time we arrived in the gothic capital of Prague, it was late and the sun was going down over the Jiraskuv bridge. Bridges cross the Vltava river every few hundred meters or so, but the crown jewel is Charles Bridge which is shut off from cars and open only to pedestrians and statues that adorn the ramparts.
Prague is one of the historic ‘old towns’ in Europe, and life comes alive here at night. The brew pubs (some of the best in the world) fill up with patrons and spill out onto the street when stools are scarce. Parks fill up with groups huddled onto park benches and get louder into the night like in Lisbon. Sadly, the days of Prague being a ‘cheap’ destination are gone, but it’s still better than most of the big cities Westward. There are more tourists in Prague than any other city we have visited thus far.
The strangest thing in Prague are the ‘minimarts’ and christ almighty are there a lot of them. Here, the minimarts sell three things: brass knuckles, absinthe and hemp products, and they’re almost exclusively run by Vietnamese people hailing from Hanoi. Our Airbnb was in little Asia so we had a number of Korean and Vietnamese run food marts that we could engage and reminisce about our time in the ‘old country’. The Koreans were more than affable and the conversations went like this:
“You lived in Korea! Where?” Asked the shop owners.
“Pangyo. Just south of Seoul. We lived there for 4 years.”
“I never meet non-Korean Koreans here in Prague. I can give you a discount if you’d like.” which we were typically greeted with at check out. After a few phrases in Korean dialect, we knew we made a friend for life. The Vietnamese, not so much:
“Are you from Hanoi?” I asked in Viet at the checkout counter.
“Yes.” They’d usually reply.
“I used to live in Saigon. For 9 years.”
“Um, ok. Would you like a bag?”
Trying to wrap my head around the disparity of kinship of my Asian brothers, I can only assume that Czechs are preparing to defend themselves against the onslaught of the zombie apocalypse and are hoping the minimarts will be their essential survival supply bastions. I mean, really. What other scenarios in life would implore you to buy brass knuckles and a bong at the same time? And who the hell drinks absinthe?
Screencast for Avigail’s Story: Second Draft
We’ve been using the writers workshop model with ipsative feedback to guide Ava through her narrative writing piece. Back in Riga, she started a draft of a girl that was separated from her parents during WW2, inspired by our visit to the Jewish Ghetto. Ava had some good ideas, but she didn’t transition well from topic to topic so I used screencasts to give her reviewable feedback using ‘Screencastify’.
Screencasts are just video recordings (typically with voiceovers) that people use for instructional or informational purposes. I’ve also had students use screencasts using quicktime for movies and digital stories, but I learned a handy way of using the ‘Screencastify’ chrome add on to give video feedback which saves time writing comments in the margins digitally, or by hand. Here’s how it works:
Install the ‘Screencastify‘ app on your chrome browser. From here, you activate the desktop or screen recorder and can choose to embed the webcam of yourself talking. (If I was better looking, I would. But as I’m bald and bearded, I look like a penis with a face and kindly opt out) Here’s the cool thing- after you finish the recording, you upload it to youtube (one of the options that ‘Screencastify’ offers) and upload it as an ‘unlisted’ video and add the link as a direct comment.
Unlisted videos can only be seen by those with the link, so in my youtube dashboard, I can see how many times Ava has looked at my screencast and I don’t have to repeat myself over and over. There is nothing more deflating for teachers than spending countless hours on giving student feedback and then not having the student read or act on it.
South to Cesky Krumlov
After three days in Prague, we took a bus down to Cesky Krumlov, a small UNESCO town near the Austrian German border. The whole town looked like it was born out of a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale- meandering cobble stone streets lined with old pensions and restaurants adorning the city.
The next morning, I went on an early morning walk and got some nice drone footage before the tourist buses came at 10ish. By then, the city was flooded with German, American, Korean and Chinese tourists walking around with their selfie sticks permanently jutted out in front them, eager to document every second of their visit.
For some reason people, people in Cesky Krumlov (when seeing me coming down the street or alleyway) gave me a wider berth than usual time and time again. I guess they do have reason to be suspicious. I’m six foot six, two hundred and sixty pounds, bald, bearded, tattooed and when I’m wearing sunglasses and pursed lips I look like I could kill an entire family. If I’m ever arrested and put in a police line up, I’m sure I’d be singled out from my looks alone and would simply put up my hands up to save time. I’d announce: “It was me. I did it. Let’s move on shall we?“
Nevertheless, we had a full day of fun. In the morning after Ava’s school work, we visited the castle and nearby gardens followed by lunch at Krcma Satlava. Satlava is an institution in Cesky and after eating here, you’ll find out why. They have a massive grill and slow roast tenderloin, chicken, potato pancakes and pork roast served up with sauerkraut and potatoes so succulent, you’ll start eyeing long term rentals when you stagger out. The local beer is a nice chaser to the horseradish and mustard garnished morsels and for entertainment you can enjoy watching the other patrons recording their dishes on video. It’s a slice of heaven for the senile.
After a post lunch gastronomic siesta, we went river rafting. We found a company that allowed us to take a raft with no supervision or helmets out on the river for 2 hours for only forty-five dollars. To be out in nature was curative after the crazy hedonism of city hopping for the last month. We spent most of our time swimming, laughing or laying back on the raft looking up at the sky and wondering why life can’t always follow a pace like this.