Saturday, July 28, 2007

North on I35

I always wish I had time to stop and take a couple of photos on my drives back and forth from Austin to Dallas. This time I did.

I also got stuck ankle deep in mud in an attempt to take a photo of a cornfield. I took that as a sign to get back on the road and showed up at my family reunion with dreadlocks and muddy feet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Boggy Creek Farm

Support your local farmers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My summer home

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Austin shows love...

... for Lady Bird Johnson.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Back to the Homelands

Dear Prague,

It sure has been fun.

I've encountered a lot of things I hadn't expected. I've learned, grown, changed, seen, heard, met, listened, thought, felt and challenged (I could go on) every day.

It's hard to go home. I would stay for a whole semester if I could. The sinking feeling that invaded my stomach when I realized I actually did have to pack and leave was the worst.

And yet, home is not so bad.

I adore Austin. I could not have picked a better town to live in for my four (maybe four and a half) years of college and I appreciate every square foot of its eclectic character. But I don't think I can sit still for very long.

I now know more about the Czech Republic, its people, its attitudes and its dynamics. It is an incredibly strong little country chock full of rich history. The city of Prague alone has culture and opportunity flooding out of it and running into the countryside. It is a center of rapid change and growth within Europe where many have fallen stagnant.

I appreciate more than anything the power of experience. With every experience we change just a little and then we change from there, and from there and so on until our life is a string of experiences that make up who we are, how we act, what we like, dont like, eat, value, love, etc.

So Prague, you have been good to me. Better than I ever expected. I hope I come back some day to visit the city that opened my mind and my heart to unending possibility. Děkuju a naschledanou.

Friday, July 6, 2007

It's raining here, too.

I hear it won't quit raining in Texas. I'ts been raining all week in Praha. But I saw a big rainbow outside my dorm window, so thats cool.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Last Round

Monday, July 2, 2007

Roma Roma Roma

I will apologize in advance for this ramble of words that will probably be way too long and disjointed.

The term "gypsy," depending on its use, is considered a derogatory term. The politically correct word to use is "Roma." When mumbled through gritted teeth on the metro by a Czech (seen it happen), it carries the same weight as the word "nigger," in reference to a black person who is not your friend.

It's hard for me to wrap this around my brain. I've always romanticized gypsies and was very oblivious to the "gypsy problem" throughout Europe. Thats why the word gypsy doesn't seem negative to me- until someone told me is the equivalent of the "N" word.

There is a lot more history behind both of these words than can be easily recounted, and unless you have been on the receiving end of a racial slur, it could be hard to understand. And unlike the "N" word in the US, Czechs use "gypsy" freely- even refusing to say "Roma" out of spite and an obvious lack of respect for an entire culture. The schools are segregated. There are civilized people who exhibit blatant racism and encourage their children to do the same. I might have thought the world had come farther than this.

At the same time, all week, Sophie (the matriarch of the family) referred to herself as gypsy, her family as gypsies, gypsy music, she fed me haloushki and said it was a traditional gypsy meal (still not sure exactly what it was, but it really was delicious). She never seemed to have a problem with the word and the more and more I refferred to her as "Roma" the more she seemed to insist that she was "gypsy."

By the end of my stay, Susannah, the 17 year old daughter of Sohie proclaimed, "You are my sister, my friend." So needless to say, I might have gotten way overly emotionally involved in this project. But at least now I've been called gypsy by a gypsy. The only way to really understand this "problem" (as the newspapers as politicians are calling it) is to really really, really put yourself in the shoes of generations and generations of traditions, teaching, laws and values passed down and cherished by a culture, that are completely different from our own.

Gypsies of the past were travelers, they very rarely stayed in one place for very long. First, traveling was outlawed. Since then they have been forced to "assimilate" to Czech culture. If I was a gypsy I would not want to become like the Czechs. Why would they want to identify with a culture that is A.) not their own and B.) incredibly racist and unfair to gypsy culture?

The family that I worked with was forced from their home in Vsetin with most of the other gypsies (about 400 families) in the area to a nearby apartment complex. The mayor there pretty much created a ghetto (in the traditional sense of the word) where gypsies were confined to live and work. Then the nearby hospital began to complain about the noise. And the mayor was surprised? They should have seen that coming.

Then the family was deported from Vsetin (in the middle of the night) to the town where they live now, Stara Cervena Voda. Officials claimed they moved the families from the apartment complex because they didn't pay their rent. One problem. Rent is covered by their welfare... something here wasn't lining up. But the Kandracs have no voice against power like that. They gave them an ultimatum, and they had to take it.

They pay an exorbitant amount of rent for the broken down shell of a home you see here. When we went to the nearby grocery store I watched as the group of white haired Czech women laughing in the foyer fell silent, clutched their purses and looked glaringly at 17 year old Susannah and her two cousins.

Theres no doubt about it, there is a problem. The problem started years ago when people started forcing a foreign way of thinking on a culture already set in its ways. It reminds me of colonization by the French in Africa- it just doesn't work, and moreover, created bigger problems than were present before. Plus it is completely insensitive.

Nowadays there are many people, Czechs included speaking up for Roma rights. That is great. But acceptance by everyone will take time. The borders of the Czech Republic have only been open for 15 years, in contrast to Americas lengthy immigration history.

The Roma culture is very different, but it is just that- different. It's not bad, or scary or something to be squashed, never to see the light of day again. I see it as something to be cherished and uplifted, allowed to exist and thrive amongst the rest of the cultures of the world. We are all so different, and isn't that what makes everything interesting? It wouldn't be very fun to travel if where you were going was just the same as where you were from.

When Sofie and Miroslav dropped me off at the bus station I shook Miroslavs hand, but hugged Sofie tightly. I'm sure the Czech passersby thought I was crazy. But, maybe, as they see more and more Roma and white people hugging then the idea wont be so crazy. Idealistically, we should all be able to coexist together and separately... I know I'm starting to sound like a daisy chain wearing, granola eating hippie (I'm starting to sound like one because I am one)... and I'm going to have to stop writing because this just reminds me of all the other countries out there fighting wars and hating each other but I cant help but ask the cliche question, "Why cant we all just get along?"

If anyone knows the answer my email is