Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Post Lockdown Picnic

Now that the state of emergency is over things are slowly getting back to normal.  Whatever the new normal is.  We're still wearing masks on public transportation and in public buildings.  

We're allowed to meet up in small groups but still with some social distancing.

Today a few of us met up for a picnic in the park at Špilberk Castle. It was nice to catch up with everyone after two months of lockdown.  Everyone has dealt with the lockdown in different ways.

While I've been studying Czech, Lucie has been reading.  Michał picked up knitting.  Slávek learned how to play the guitar and Aleš has been learning Italian.  

It felt so nice to be outside even if only for a couple of hours.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

State of Emergency Ends

The Czech government is not going to ask the Chamber of Deputies to prolong the state of emergency.  There was talk that the government wanted to extend it to 25 May but they didn't which means that the current state of emergency will end today at midnight. 

The state of emergency has lasted 66 days.  It began on 12 March and it was extended twice.

While the state of emergency ends it doesn't mean that everything goes back to normal.  Several restrictions will remain in place for now.  It looks like the borders might open up in a couple of weeks.  

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Czech Language Memes

Since my citizenship test and language exam were cancelled and postponed until December I've continued to focus on studying.  Lots of Skype lessons have at least given me something to do during the lockdown.  I've come across several memes about the Czech language that I thought I'd share.  Trust and believe that they are all true.

There's the Ř sound that doesn't exist in any other language.  I can do it now but it was hit or miss for a few years.

There's ty and vy - the informal vs formal versions of "you".  Not that difficult but then because of the 7 cases there are actually 8 words that all mean "you".

The grammar is difficult.  I understand a lot more than I used to but it is difficult for native English speakers.

There's the verbal aspect which means that you have to basically learn two different verbs for every verb in English.

Even Czech months have to be difficult to learn because unlike other languages they aren't based on Latin.

I speak Spanglish and German so I can confirm that this one is pretty dang accurate.

I didn't make any of these memes.  I just found them online.  Well enough bitching about Czech as it's time for me to get back to studying.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

I got a Haircut

COVID-19 continues to turn things upside down.  In March, the European Union collectively banned non-essential travel coming in to the EU from the rest of the world.  Similarly in March the USA also implemented a travel ban on all non-American citizens, or permanent residents, who have been in the Schengen area within 14 days of arriving in the U.S.  

The U.S. ban doesn't make the most sense because it doesn't ban travel from Europe but only from the Schengen countries.  Banning flights from Europe would have made sense but apparently the USA thinks that Schengen equals all of Europe.  Or that the virus somehow respects international borders and that it doesn't spread to non-Schengen countries.

There are repatriation flights to both the EU and the USA which enable citizens to return home.  Legally I am able to return to the U.S., because I'm a citizen.  That is if I wanted to return.  (A)  Czechland is home so this is where I'm staying and (B)  it's tough to even find an available flight.

There are only 13 airports in the USA that allow flights in for American citizens who have been in Schengen countries, China or Iran.  The airports are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago's O'Hare airport, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York's JFK airport, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, and Washington Dulles.

I was supposed to fly to the USA at the end of May to visit my family.  My niece is graduating high school in California and I had promised her years ago that I would be there.  The plan was to fly in to Phoenix, Arizona to see my parents.  Then we would make the seven hour drive to my sister's home in Irvine.  Due to the pandemic and travel bans, my British Airways flight to Phoenix was cancelled.  So was my niece's graduation ceremony. 

At the end of April, the Czech government prolonged the state of emergency until 17 May.  However, the current restrictions have started to ease up a bit.

On 20 April, farmers' markets, car dealerships, and outdoor training for professional athletes were allowed.  Plus weddings with up to 10 people.

On 27 April, businesses could open up if they were under 2500 m² (27,000 square feet) as long as they are not in shopping malls over 5000 m².  Driving schools and libraries could open.  Gyms could open but the locker rooms and shower facilities had to remain closed.  Church services could resume for up to 15 people.  Even with things open, masks are still required.

As of yesterday, shops over 2500 m² could open up again.  Restaurants were allowed to open up outside dining.  Museums and galleries could open again.  Theatres, cinemas and circuses are allowed up to 100 people.  Classes of up to 15 students are permitted for high school students getting ready for their maturita exam.  And most importantly hairdressers could open again.

My hair grows pretty quick so Lukáš has been cutting my hair every two weeks for over 10 years.  I was due for a haircut when the restrictions hit so I was starting to look like a shaggy dog.  Fortunately that's over and I got a haircut this morning.  I had to wear a mask.  Lukáš had to wear a gloves, a mask, and a plastic face shied. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Updated Things Not Available List

I go to my local Brněnka grocery store two or three times a week.  It is a small shop but it is totally packed with supplies and it has a pretty decent deli.  It's located next to my tram stop which is only a five minute walk from my flat.  This was perfect pre-lockdown because I could pop in to the shop and quickly pick up whatever I needed on my way home from work.  

A couple of weeks ago I was surprised to see that they now carry Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  For just 31 Kč ($1.42).  I've been able to find them at The Candy Store but this is the first time that I've noticed them in a normal shop.   

When I first moved here, more than a decade ago, I had a list of "things not available here" on the right hand side of the blog.  There was even a Tripadvisor thread about it back in 2012.  I've updated the list as things have become available here or if I could find something somewhere else in Euroland.

On the original list there was:

"Soft" Sandwich Bread.  It's now off the list.  I was able to find the equivalent but I can't remember the last time that I actually wanted it.  I'd much rather have an open-faced celebíček style sandwich.

Angel Hair Pasta.  I did find the equivalent of angel hair pasta but the noodles are short; maybe 4 or 5 cm (1.5 to 2 inches) long.  If I want a proper long pasta noodle then I just use spaghetti noodles.  

Big Marshmallows.  Off the list thanks to the Candy Store.  

Bisquick.  I found it in the UK.  I still keep this on hand because Czech flour is still confusing to me.

Black Beans.  I finally found them.  Not available everywhere or all of the time but I can find canned black beans.  When I come across them I buy extra and horde them.  

Caesar Salad Dressing.  I found it in Germany.  I also found it in the UK and Ireland.

Clam Chowder Soup.  This still isn't a thing over here but remember that this is a landlocked country.  I tried to make it using canned clams I received in a care package with some potato soup but it just didn't come out right. 

Coffee-mate Flavored Creamer.  I used to use either the liquid or powdered flavoured creamer all the time back in the USA.  My tastes have changed since living here and I no longer miss this.  I think that you can find some various flavourings here but I don't use them.  I just use milk and brown sugar.

Cooking Spray.  I still don't understand why this isn't a thing over here.  I found it in Ireland.

Corn Dogs.  They don't exist over here.  It's a hot dog on a stick that is dipped in corn batter and deep fried.  I did manage to find a corn dog last year but it was in Taiwan.

Dr. Pepper.  This started showing up here in 2011.  I can find it at the Candy Store and it's available in some grocery stores but I don't remember the last time that I bought it.  It's very rare that I actually drink a soda now and when I do it's Kofola.  

Egg Beaters/Liquid Egg Whites.  This is basically an egg mixture in a carton that you pour directly in to a frying pan.  I liked the egg white version because why take the time to separate the yolks from the whites when you can just use a carton of egg whites.  I'm sure that my Eurocrew will just think that this is falls under the category of just being incredibly lazy.  I removed this from the list because I no longer care about it.  

Enchilada Sauce.  I've never found it over here.  Luckily I have plenty of spice packs so that I can make it when I need it.

French's Yellow Mustard.  I found it in the UK and it's at the Candy Store.  

Goya Sofrito.  This is a base mix that you add to beans or rice in Latin cooking.  It's basically a mix garlic, onion, peppers, and tomatoes that were cooked down in olive oil.  I removed it from the list because it's been over a decade since I last had it and I'm sure that I could find a recipe online if I really needed it for something.

Graham Crackers.  Proper graham crackers don't exist over here.  I'm sure that there are similar products available in the kid's food section of a market.  Fortunately I received a box of graham cracker crumbs that I can use when I need to bake a pie or make a cheesecake.

Hot Dog Buns.  American-style hot dog buns aren't a think here.  Unless you go to Ikea where you can buy a hot dog with a bun.  I removed this from the list because I finally got used to just slicing open a rohlík.  Not as soft as a regular hot dog bun but it works.

Jelly Beans.  Jelly Belly jelly beans are at the Candy Store.  I've started to see other brands of jelly beans show up in stores.

Jif Crunchy Peanut Butter.  I found it in the UK.  I can get it at the Candy Store but it is expensive.  I can now find peanut butter, smooth or crunchy, in the local shop.  Jif Crunchy is my favourite brand so I just have to splurge when I'm craving a PB&J. 

Jiffy Cornbread Mix.  I can't get this over here.  I have to rely on care parcels.  In a few weeks I was supposed to fly to California for my niece's high school graduation.  Due to Covid-19 that's not going to happen.  I planned to bring back several boxes so that I have them in time for Thanksgiving.  Assuming that Thanksgiving will happen this year.

Listerine PocketPaks Breath Strips.  I love these little strips that dissolve on your tongue.  I've never seen them here.  A colleague told me that that used to be here years ago but didn't last long.  I found something similar before in Germany but just not the same thing. 

Mac n' Cheese.  The only Mac n' Cheese is Kraft Mac n' Cheese.  I've come across some British versions but I haven't actually tried them.  I normally use five boxes to make a big batch at Thanksgiving.  Last year it was the most popular dish with the kids.  I may have to do a double batch this year.

Macadamia Nuts.  I've never seen them here.  I can't even remember the last time I had one.  

Mt. Dew.  I found first several years ago in Poland.  It's at the Candy Store and I do see it every so often at the grocery store.  I don't remember the last time I had one.

Passion Fruit Juice.  Once, back in 2010, I spotted passion fruit juice at Tesco.  They had eight 1-litre boxes and I bought every single one of them.  I've spotted it in the grocery store a few times in Vienna but I've never seen it here again in Czechland.  

Pickle Relish.  For the life of me I don't understand why pickle relish isn't a thing over here.  Czechs love pickles and they are great at pickling veggies and canning fruit for the winter so I don't understand why pickle relish just isn't a thing here.  For me, I don't care if it's regular or sweet relish, either way it is a total necessity for a hot dog.  It is also a key ingredient for "deviled eggs" at Thanksgiving.  I can get it sometimes at the Candy Store.  I may actually have to breakdown and find a recipe on-line so that I can make it myself.  

Ranch Dressing.  Americans love ranch dressing.  It's a salad dressing.  We also use it as a sauce for Buffalo chicken wings.  It can also be a dip for crisps or veggies.  It's another item that you can find at the Candy Store.  I have spice packs that I can use to make up a batch when I want.  Czechs have a farmer's dressing but it is no where close to the same thing as ranch dressing.    

Red Velvet Cake.  You can find the cake mix in the UK and Ireland.  It's also available at the Candy Store.  It's not in the shops here but I have seen red velvet cupcakes for sale at many cafes so I think it's getting quite popular.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  They're available now which is what inspired this blog post.

Rocky Road Ice Cream.  This is chocolate ice cream with bits of almonds and marshmallows.  The story goes that in 1929, a guy used his wife's scissors to cut up marshmallows and walnuts which he then mixed in to chocolate ice cream. When the stock market crashed later that year the flavour was renamed as "rocky road" so that people would have something that they could smile about.  Zmrzlina is really good but I would slap someone's mama to get at some rocky road ice cream.

Root Beer.  This is a non-alcoholic, caffeine-free, carbonated soft drink.  Sometimes older people will refer to it as sarsaparilla.  It's kind of the American version of Kofola but Kofola is way better.  When we were kids it was always the biggest treat to get a root beer float.  Just vanilla ice cream and root beer in a mug.  The combination would create a foam on top.  

Splenda.  This is a sugar substitute that is popular in the USA.  In the USA it is legally able to be labeled east "zero calories".  Splenda could be used instead of sugar even for cooking and baking.  Just replace the sugar with half the quantity of Splenda.  I did find this in the UK.  I still have some in my pantry  but I haven't touched this in years.  I still have some in my pantry but I haven't touch the stuff in years. I remove d it from the list because I don't care about it any more.  

Two-in-One Anti-Perspirant & Deodorant.  It's pretty simple.  An antiperspirant helps control sweat and a deodorant protects against door.  In the USA, it is pretty common to buy one product that does both of these things.  In Euroland I can find either antiperspirant or deodorant.  Both of which are more expensive than back in the USA but I don't even care about the cost.  It's just a pain that I can't get a two-in-one.

Velveeta Cheese.  Velvet is a processed cheese product that's popular in the USA.  It tastes like American cheese.  The good thing about Velveeta is that it doesn't separate into an oily mess when you melt it so it's good for making hot cheese dips or cheese for nachos.  I've never seen it over here.  I removed it from the list because I no longer miss it.  I can't even imagine how many E's would be in this.  

Anytime you move to a new country there are going to be things that you miss from home.  That's not a bad thing.  Just make sure that you give ample opportunity to try all of the new things available.  I've been here long enough that I totally love Kofola but that doesn't mean that I don't ever want to go without have a Dr. Pepper again.  However, if you can't survive without Velveeta cheese then Czechland might not be the place for you.

Update:  Thanks to Jana who left a comment below I can remove macadamia nuts from the missing list.  Thanks Jana!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The National Seal

The Czech national seal displays the greater coat of arms between linden branches.  The linden tree is the national tree.

The Czech President uses the national seal primarily on the letters of credentials for the country's diplomats.  It is also used as the seal on international treaties.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

New Exam Dates

I wasn't happy a few weeks ago when I found out that my citizenship and language exams were cancelled.  Whilst disappointed, I thought fine, now I have more time to prepare.

Well now I'm really not happy.  Today I found out that my exams have been rescheduled for 5 December.  I have to wait seven months to take my exams.  

I had trip planned to go to Moldova over that weekend but I cancelled my flight because my exams are more important.  Later on I will try to be positive about this but for right now I'm not exactly pleased about the delay.  This means it will postpone my citizenship application by almost a year.  If all goes well then maybe I'll become Czech by the end of 2021.

Update:  My December exams were cancelled too.  Now waiting for a new date sometime in 2021.