Prague, AIPES, American Institute on Political and Economic Systems, The Fund for American Studies, TFAS

Monday, July 31, 2006

First Hours in Prague: Let the Mayhem Begin

(Originally posted on on 7/9/06)

So my trip got off to kind of a crappy start. When I arrived at Seatac, I found out that my flight to London was delayed so I had to be re-booked onto a later flight from London to Prague and I wouldn't arrive in Prague until midnight. Fortunately, when I did arrive in Prague, I ran into one of the other TAs (Lou) who had been on my flight from London. UNfortunately, his strategy for finding the dorm/hotel was the same as mine--basically take the address around to random people in the airport and ask how to get there.

Some nice English-speaking people pointed us in the right direction and told us where to wait for the bus. He had also heard that using ATMs was the way to go, so he hadn't exchanged any $$ for Kc before leaving the US, so he didn't have any cash to pay for the fare. (I actually did exchange $50 for 850 Kc at Heathrow airport just in case. Only later did I find out that Heathrow is pretty much the worst place in the world to change money: not only do they take a larger commission of every exchange, but they also charge a 10 pound fee for your exchange.) I was surprised, but at the airport we had trouble finding Czechs who spoke English very well...

When the bus arrived, I tried to ask the non-English speaking driver how to pay for our tickets, but he took pity on us and just let us on. I think he was too tired to try to figure out what we were asking. Or maybe he said to pay or get off the bus and I just didn't understand. Anyhoo! (He needs to work on his charades.)

When we arrived at the stop for the dorm, we got off the bus and this crazy downpour started. So Lou and I had to trek up the street in this insane rain storm! We walked up the street a couple of blocks and followed our written directions on how to get to the dorm. The dorm turned out to be pretty easy to find and checking in was pretty easy as well. The reception guy gave me a key to my room and said, "Your room is J511. The lift is to the right. You are on the 5th floor." I assumed based on those simple instructions that it would be simple to find my room. However, when I arrived on the 5th floor, I noticed that the numbered doors all started with an H, not a J. I wandered around, unable to read any of the signs since they were all in Czech.

Now, this was not like a normal hotel. In a normal hotel, you get off the elevator and a sign would indicate "501-550 -->" or something like that and you can go to the right and/or left and that's pretty much it. In this dorm, you get off the elevator and you see a sign with like 5 options, none of which are in English and none of which suggest where the rooms starting with J are located. Then when you pick a direction, either right or left, you walk several hundred feet down this sterile corridor and eventually come to another door that, upon opening, appears just like the corridor you came from or is an intersection where you can turn right or left and around a corner. It felt like a rat in a freakin' maze! I went around and around and around and finally gave up, so after trying for like 10 minutes to find my room, I went back to the elevator, where I found Lou who was also lost. An American student who had been in the dorm for a week already for some other program had taken pity on him and was showing him to his room. He also pointed me in the right direction. After another 10-15 minutes and several wrong turns through identical looking corridors, I finally found my room. By then I was exhausted.

I don't think I've yet mentioned the heat. It is horrendous and there is basically no A/C in Prague, so as I was lugging all my crap through the corridors, it was like 100 degrees and 100% humidity in the dorm. But I think I lost 10 pounds from the effort, so that is good since I feel like a whale compared to the European women (discussed more in a later post). But that was not the end of the adventure for the evening. I decided to take a shower since I was sweating buckets from the whole ordeal. I decided to test my hair dryer before showering to see if it would work with the adapter Jerrod had given me. Well, I plugged it into the bathroom outlet and POW!! I heard a loud crack and the lights went black. In spite of the power outage, I decided to go ahead and take a shower... Well, with the lights off, I couldn't see that the shower head was pointed outwards and ended up totally spraying water all over the bathroom when I turned the water on. So in my first hour in Prague, I'd managed to be stuck in a rainstorm, get lost in the dorm, blow out my power, and flood the bathroom. Needless to say, I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown, but instead I just went to sleep and slept on through until 8:30. Everyone remarked that it was weird that I was able to do that and skip the jet lag. The only thing I thought was weird was that I actually got 8 consecutive hours of sleep after 20 years of chronic insomnia.

But after a few days, my sleep habits are pretty much back to normal since it continues to be ridiculously hot and I can't sleep when it's hot... so it's pretty much my status quo: going to bed at 8:00 just to get 4-5 hours of sleep per night. (I guess I just always operate like I have serious jet lag in the states.) Will write more later about the program later.


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