Showing posts with label transition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label transition. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Washington Post: As Boomers Shed Stuff, Their Offspring, Millenials, Reject it

This article about Boomers downsizing and their children not wanting their stuff made me smile, as I have had this experience when I downsized, and I now actually live in a city with my memories on a blog, just like a Millenial! There's a big box of hard copy photos waiting for me to organize into scrapbooks when I get back home to America though. I guess this article is telling me: don't bother.

Maybe the reason Millenials aren't defining themselves by possessions is they all saw this movie short "The Story of Stuff" growing up: 

Thanks to my friend Hope Gross Mandel for the article. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

I lasted a month-and-a-half in Cihangir

By far the best thing about living in the Istanbul neighborhood of Cihangir was how centrally located it was. I could walk to the Istanbul Modern and to church (which still took an hour to get to - but this time on foot). Cihangir came highly recommended by newspapers and foreigners alike, although not necessarily the locals.

What I didn't consider before moving, was that Cihangir is so centrally located, every single Erasmus exchange student who had come to Istanbul for six months would be walking down my street at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m. 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. after a long night of dancing and drinking. Each hour of the evening's activities would then have to be discussed in very loud foreign girl and boy voices where dismay or giggles would be promptly shared by their friends, also in equally loud foreign girl and boy voices. If it had been a really good night, the drunken singing would start.

In addition, neighborhood men would love to sit on the building stoop and discuss life until 2 a.m. The neighbors might play their oud and bongos until 4 a.m. prompting neighborhood residents to come out on their balconies and yell for quiet. The taxis and shuttle buses would take a shortcut to the sea road on my street all night long.
The future Maxim Hotel
for now, an empty construction lot
Up the street from me, was a very fun construction site to watch transform during the daytime - but not so fun at night. The construction workers worked in two 12-hour shifts and had for months. Dirt and grime floated everywhere from their efforts. And worst of all, were the dump trucks full of dirt rattling and clanging down my hill at 3 a.m.
Not exactly "lite" construction
Cihangir has magnificent views. When searching for my initial apartment and then a second one, I saw so many breathtaking views of the Bosphorus. Indeed, right next to the Cihangir mosque, is a park with a spectacular vista of the Bosphorus, the cruise ships, the Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. Regular folks can't enjoy it though because it is always filled with 1-5 winos sleeping it off. The winos are in no way dangerous but they leave their bottles and litter everywhere. 
So, because of the noise, I decided to find a new neighborhood. I've since moved to Beşiktaş, another centrally-located neighborhood, but one step removed from "too much" activity. Everyday in the first two weeks, it seemed, I discovered yet another girlfriend lives in the neighborhood. I got it right this time.
Follow me on Facebook at: Empty Nest Expat

Friday, June 1, 2012

Engaged to be Married

The young couple

This week my oldest daughter told me that she and her boyfriend are now engaged to be married. It was exciting to hear of their commitment. I'm grateful she is marrying a great guy whom I admire and respect. Her fiance is funny too. And supportive of her. And full of common sense.

One daughter engaged and another a recent graduate makes me realize my time as an Empty Nest Expat is passing quickly! The milestones just keep coming.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yea! I'm the mother of two college graduates!

Me and my girls
This month I had the occasion to go home to the United States to see my youngest daughter graduate magna cum laude from the University of Missouri with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism. Her emphasis was Strategic Communications. I'm proud she graduated with honors and equally proud that she graduated debt-free. She worked really hard at that, at one time holding down two assistantships and a part-time job while going to school full-time. She plotted her classes out carefully so that she graduated in exactly four years.
My daughter "relishes" her new role
as a hotdogger

On June 3rd, she starts her new job as a hotdogger for the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.  It's been fun to learn about that opportunity as over 1,500 people apply every year and exactly 12 young people are hired to drive six different Weinermobiles around America promoting the Oscar Mayer brand of hot dogs. I'd like to think my daughter inherited a bit of my sense of adventure and desire to see parts unknown.
Suzy, the Dancing Pancake
People who have worked as a mascot are frequently hired as a hotdogger for the Oscar Mayer company. Who knew that  my child's time as IHOP's "Suzy the Dancing Pancake" or Papa Murphy's " Pizza Slice" in high school would pay off so well? Maybe, she did. Kelly makes opportunities everywhere she goes.
The Papa Murphy Pizza Slice

Two years was too long a time for me to be gone! I think it's important to probably go home once a year if that's doable. Or if I can't go home, it would be nice if my family could come visit me here. Vacation time is so short and precious in America though, I can't imagine that will be soon.

While I enjoyed my time home in America, and was pleased that every city I went to looked like it was doing great, it did feel like I was coming "home" to Istanbul when I came back after 10 days. I couldn't wait to enjoy the Turkish spring bounty of new cherries. I wondered when the Turkish peaches would hit the shelves. I hoped the climbing roses and the honeysuckle were still fragrantly blooming in my neighborhood and that I would get to enjoy them.

Yea! She finished!
I have confidence in my child's ability to thrive post-college. If she needs me, I'm just a phone call away. Maybe my highly conscious decision to designate this period of my life as my time to be an "Empty Nest Expat" has rubbed off on her highly conscious planning of how to use her most agile years.

Kelly's already set her next life goal as running a race in all 50 states of the nation by the age of 25. I think she's up to seven states now. She did her first marathon the Saturday before graduation. That's another hard part about me being an expat: I wasn't there to cheer her on. Luckily, the people of Cinncinati, where she ran the Flying Pig Marathon, made her feel like an Olympian! "Best day of my life, Mom! The people were fantastic, the neighborhoods were adorable, and they made me feel so proud."

You can read about her adventures at the University of Missouri at her freshman year blog "First Steps of a Freshman" or at her new blog "The Race for All 50 States," or at the official "Hotdogger Blog" where she will be contributing.

You might also enjoy:

Wonderful food eases newly empty nest

Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

Enjoying the Fruits of My Parenting Labors

Hello Great Big Beautiful World! (first ever blog post)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Making Expat Friends through Internations Expat Social Network

Friends having fun!
That's how we spell it: Y-M-C-A
How was anyone an expat before the Internet? That was when people really left home and immersed themselves completely in another country. No TV shows from home, no news from home, only snail mail, and a new culture where English was not the global language it is today.  That was expat commitment on a whole other level.
Enjoying new Internations friends in Turkey
Gratefully, these days, the Internet provides us not only the comforts of our familiar media, but also tools to help us make the most of our new overseas city as quickly as possible. Before I left to go overseas, I made my first Prague friends through blogging. I started a blog and connected with expats in Prague that were also already blogging. That seems quite a slow, laborious way to make friends now that I think about it. At the time, in 2008, I thought I was high tech!
The Turkish gesture for sincerity:
A hand over the heart
What do all the people who are too busy or lazy to write a blog do? There are new, quicker ways to make friends before arrival in a new city. I first discovered couchsurfing as a way to meet locals as I travelled, and as a way to experience amazing events with fellow expats.  Couchsurfing participants skew fairly young demographically. What has been a wonderful resource for me in Istanbul is the expatriate professional's social network called Internations. It's designed to connect global minds in over 250 communities worldwide.

To use Internations, you first need an invitation from an expat who is already a member. That's easy enough to secure. They can send you an email invitation and then you too are a basic member. I've enjoyed my free basic membership for a couple of years now. Through that basic membership, I have access to all kinds of relevant information like city and relocation guides and an expat magazine. Those resources are highly valuable if first starting out or daydreaming about "hmmm, where should I go next?" I've occasionally used the forum feature in the Istanbul section of Internations where people post their job openings or 'positions wanted' listings, their moving sales, and their color commentary. I find that valuable. I've mostly used it to source books.
Sampling Turkish wine together
There is also an Internations paid membership, called the Albatross membership, which has a small monthly cost. It allows people to send unlimited messages to others in the network. I could imagine that would be useful to someone who organizes lots of activities or does business with other professionals. The Albatross membership would be useful for anyone who does business with expats because there is an advanced search feature that allows people to search by nationality, organization, or interests. Albatross membership also provides people free entry into the monthly megaparty held in each city. I find those parties to be meat-market-like and skippable even though they are often in beautiful and interesting locations. It's hard to have an in-depth conversation with anyone at one of those events.

The feature on Internations that has been a Godsend to me is the local events section.  Nice people all over the city organize outings and/or actual groups that meet on an ongoing basis. My hike to the Belgrad Forest was an event advertised on Internations by my friend Yasemin. I've also joined two different groups on Internations that have been so fun and so full of terrific, delightful people that I keep coming back to them again and again. I will write about my Internations book group and travel group both in later posts. I also appreciate that the basic Internations membership allows me to organize my connections with new friends in a different place than Facebook. That's useful if I'm not ready to make someone a Facebook friend.
Chilled Out in a Cappadochian Cave
I'm always surprised when sheer visits to a site don't translate into enough traffic to generate revenue. For example, I thought reader's consistent daily visits to the New York Times were enough for them to go out and sell advertising based on high viewership. I thought my consistent return to Internations was too.  Apparently not though, because both organizations have demanded a new monthly fee for a specific level of service beyond the minimum. I hate it when that happens! Aren't my eyeballs enough?
Dinner at Meze by Lemon Tree,
Frequently rated #1 restaurant in Istanbul
on Tripadvisor
Reluctantly, due to the new fees, my groups on Internations have concluded that we will go elsewhere for our organization and communication. My book group had set up an entire alternative communication method as we were limited to only five messages a month each on Internations (imagine how frequently we'd have visited if we could have done all of our communication with each other through the site - that limit made us create backup plans) and my travel group has already migrated to Facebook. Will Internations stay interesting if access becomes so restricted that people move their energy elsewhere?

Have you become a member of Internations? What's been your experience? What have you valued the most?

Monday, May 9, 2011

So, Are You Thinking About Becoming an Expatriate?

 New this week:
"Expat Women Confessions"
by Andrea Martins
and Victoria Hepworth

 When I was thinking about becoming an expatriate, I had no idea what was involved or how I would do once I went overseas.  I was very lucky to find the Expat Women website because their monthly newsletter, collection of expatriate blogs by women from all over the world, and website features gave me the courage to dream. Expat Women was probably one of my very first information points about everything involved with being an expat.  Reading other women's experiences gave me courage! 

As anyone knows who begins down the path of a research-heavy dream, it can consume a lot of hours poking around on the web to find answers to the thousands of questions involved in any new endeavor.

Luckily, experienced expats Andrea Martin, Director of Expat Women, and Victoria Hepworth, manager of the Blog Directory that is contained within the Expat Women website have teamed up to answer some of the most commonly asked questions women have about what is involved in an overseas life.

This week, these two accomplished ladies are launching their new book: "Expat Women: Confessions." Their one-stop guide to issues related to expatriation covers topics such as how to settle in and deal with culture shock, how to handle a crisis such as medical issues or death abroad (heaven forbid!), what are some of the money and career issues common to expatriates, and most importantly: how will expatriation affect one's relationships with significant others, aging parents, and children.

Andrea and Victoria know what questions people would ask and want answers to before they leap! Andrea talks to expats all the time not only through her web site but also through her professional speaking to expatriate groups.  Victoria wrote her Master's thesis on 'trailing spouses,' the phenomenon where spouses whose other half has been offered an overseas opportunity that decides a couple's path.

They will undoubtedly cover a topic that seems unnecessary before you jump.  I never thought I would need to know about sudden repatriation, but I did.  I wish I had known about that before it happened. That's the beauty of this book.  Expat Women: Confessions answers questions we think to ask and those we don't.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

This Blog is Censored in Turkey

Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on? I'm not sure. Because I can't physically see my blog.  You'll have to tell me if you can.  I'm physically prevented from seeing what I write here so I hope you can read it. I just now figured out how to get a post on my blog through a blogging "back door."

I haven't posted in over a month.  That hasn't happened in the three years I've been writing this blog because there has been so much I've wanted to share in my traveling adventure.

As many of you know, I moved to Istanbul, Turkey last summer and have thoroughly enjoyed myself here.  I'm a bit behind in blogging about my adventures because well, a move is disruptive, and time-consuming. Turkey itself is a fantastically-interesting country with incredible history and beauty. I can't wait to tell you about it!

Right now, however, my blog and any other bloggers using Google's Blogspot domain are being censored in Turkey.  The story printed in the papers was that one person was illegally streaming football matches over his blog and a judge ordered not just his blog shut down, but the entire domain! Blogspot gets 18 million hits a month in this country alone. I sincerely hope you aren't a Turkish person trying to run a business on your blog cause you've been out of luck for over a month now.  I can't even imagine how frustrating that would be!

Now I'm American so I don't know much about football.  I've watched one game in my life, the final of the World Cup, and it was enough to convince me that I don't need to know too much more about football.  Yawn! Geez, it's slow.  But a game is over in one afternoon, right? I have no idea why this censorship continues. One of my American friends said, "well, maybe that guy wasn't streaming a football game, but a cricket match.  Those go on for weeks, right?" 

So here we bloggers sit.  Still censored.  Maybe it's because I'm a librarian and we librarians are constantly making sure the public has access to banned books.  Maybe it's because I spent so much time in formerly-Communist Prague and I find the idea of repressed society unable to express their opinions so compelling and worthy of my advocacy.

The effect of this banning was annoying at first, but now it's starting to feed my ego. I never would have thought to put "being censored" on my bucket list, but hey, now I can cross it off the list as "done! Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt"  What could we all have to say that merits this silence? Why, I do believe my blog is samizdat (the Russian name for literature that doesn't have the official seal of approval so it has to be self-published)! How wonderfully romantic. The librarian in my loves the idea of "Banned in the 'Bul!" Somebody ought to make T-shirts and sell them.

Another thing the librarian in me is giggling at: I'm not the one doing the shushing here!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thanks for following!

I feel like I've been on vacation from my blog - gee, I didn't even need one! I was having fun posting almost daily.  So while I can't really do my regular blog posts until I get internet access installed, I would like to celebrate reaching a count of 40 followers of my blog! Thank you so much for following, I love hearing your feedback and hearing about your adventures too.  If you're not a follower yet, why not sign up today?  It's an easy way to know when I'm "back at it" and posting to my blog.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thanks for caring!

One of my loyal readers contacted me and said, ''Are you alrıght? You haven't posted since the 14th of June.'' Thank you, Karin, for caring!

I just moved into a new place and don't have internet access yet.  New posts should start soon when I'm wıred.  I have so much to tell.

Bye for now!


Sunday, May 30, 2010

I've Got a Ticket to Ride

I decided to take a bus to Istanbul because I knew it would be a volcano-proof plan, I wouldn't have to stay awake watching my luggage like on a train, and I simply wanted a sense of the geography and distance I'm traveling.

My daughter asked, "Does it get to count as a country you've visited, if you just ride through it?" I thought yes.  I told her, "well I count Poland and all I did was go through the Warsaw airport."

"That soooo does not count!" she insisted. What's your standard, gentle reader, for saying, "yes, I visited that country?"  I figure if you breathed their air, you visited it.

This morning, I"m boarding a bus at 9 a.m. for a 27-hour bus ride to Sofia, Bulgaria.  It's a little wierd to be looking forward to a 27-hour bus ride, but hey, that's me. The route covered is fascinating.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Yea! I'm Back in Prague

I'm glad to see this guy
is still going strong
in Prague's Old Town Square.
He produces endless smiles,
joy, and singing in those passing by.

I started this blog to move me forward to some very specific goals:

1) graduate youngest from high school.
2) sell my house.
3) move to Prague and take a TEFL class.
4) live in Prague teaching business English.

My youngest graduated from high school and is now in her junior year of college.  I moved to Prague, took my TEFL course and started to have the time of my life.  Six months into it, I had to go back to the States because my school waited 2.5 months before applying for my visa and it wasn't ever issued.  I tried to reapply for a visa from the States. I was told I was denied a second time (although I never actually received a letter saying so).

My daughters and I

I spent a very lovely 10 months in Madison, Wisconsin.  Madison is a city frequently chosen by magazines as the #1 most fabulous place to live in all of the United States.  I can heartily agree! Madison was a physically beautiful, intellectually-stimulating, healthy, wonderful place to live.  I may end up there some day, who knows. While I was back in the States, I finally got my house sold and watched my oldest daughter graduate from the University of Wisconsin (she did it in 3.5 years while working 20 hours a week and serving as president of one of her student organizations. Yea, Daughter #1! Somebody hire her please, she's amazing.).

But living in Madison was not what I wanted to do with this portion of my life here on Earth, so having accomplished all of the goals I set out to do, I'm ready to start Part II of Empty Nest Expat.  This part will be more spontaneous.  My goal is to write a very specific book about the Czech Republic.  I can visualize the entire thing in my mind.

I have come back to Prague to see if I can get a residence visa from the Czech Republic to live here while I write. I've applied for what is called the živnostenský list which is essentially a business trade license so that I can earn a living while I'm here writing. I am absolutely horrible at bureaucratic paperwork like visas and the like and am actually pretty proud just to have figured out (with the help of friends) how to do the živnostenský list without an agency's help. Having applied for this business trade license, and been approved, I will then have to move back out of the Czech Republic to apply for a residence visa (don't bother asking, I don't understand it either). Still with me, or have your eyes glazed over?  If they've glazed over, welcome to my world.

House of Týn Church

When I got back to Prague and first saw the spires of the House of Týn Church, I cried.  They were so damn beautiful!  And then I cried when I was on Revoluční, and realized I was going to have my first chlebičky in 10 months at my favorite kavárna (coffee shop). Oh, the joy of familiar Czech pleasures!

I hope I'm successful living here.  That's why I say Phase II of Empty Nest Expat may have to be more spontaneous.  I'm not yet ready to give up my Czech dream, but if I have to do so, I'll read up on how to develop Buddhist non-attachment to what I want and then find a country that welcomes me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to Make Friends In Your New Country Before You Become an Expat

I suppose expats become old hands at arriving in a country and figuring it all out. The first time sure isn't like that. It's a bit, well, daunting! Luckily, there are resources to help you!

One of the first I discovered was I loved it because it was so beautifully organized. There were stories about life abroad as an expat, lists of expat/international women's clubs, and advice about settling into specific countries from expats who live there. My friend Sher put together the advice for the Czech Republic and it's dead on!

And how do I know Sher? Through! The coolest feature on the site is called "Your Blogs." It lists country by country expat blogs in each country. There were two others listed for the Czech Republic and I became friends with both ladies (even though, I haven't even met one of them because she lives outside of Prague!). It helps though to have a blog yourself so they can get to know you as much as you get to know them.

When I was looking at other possible countries to teach English in, the country specific blog directory was really helpful. What are those blog writers writing about in their blog? All I had to do was read the Ukrainian expat blogs to see I didn't have an interest in moving there. In Kiev, they were freaking out about keeping the heat and the lights on because of continual power outages. Next country! Not going there. I need heat.

One day I looked at African blogs. In one country, the expat were worried for their physical safety and the physical safety of people in that country. Next country! Not going there. It's an incredibly powerful resource from REAL people. Are the writers having fun? Are they being exposed to new ideas? Can they afford living there? Do the locals make them feel welcome? Does the local government treat them with respect?

So take a look at The site is celebrating it's third birthday on January 16th - (Happy Birthday Expatwomen!) Even if the only traveling you are going to do is in your armchair. Your vision will expand as you take in other people's experiences in faraway places. You might even end up with a friend or two.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Most Popular Posts for the Empty Nest Expat Blog

As Empty Nest Expat blog begins a new year, it's interesting to look back and find out which posts received the most readership. I knew nothing about search engine optimization when I started this blog. I now try to at least make my title have a keyword or two related to the subject at hand.

I'll no longer write a post with a title who's meaning is as hidden as "Good Things Happen to Good People" when it's about UNESCO naming one of my favorite places, Iowa City, Iowa, the third-named City of Literature in the entire world. No one finds the post except those who return to my blog on a regular basis!

For those of you who do read my blog on a regular basis, I want to say thank you. I have learned so much from you and have enjoyed our two-way conversation. If you're one of my "lurkers" and are nervous about leaving comments, please go ahead and do so. I'm constantly surprised when someone will send me an email telling me they took some action based on something in my blog (such as visit or move to the Czech Republic, or picking a particular part of Prague to live in, or going to a particular tourist attraction) and I knew nothing about them reading it cause they never said hello! Say hello - I'd love to meet you (at least the best we can - virtually).

When I write, I write about what fascinates me and I write from the heart. Writing gives me a chance to relive the experience and know it more precisely. I have no idea what you'll enjoy. It was fun to go back and see what posts generated the most readership. If you as a reader can share your favorite posts with me in the comments, I would love to hear your opinion!

Here are some of my top read posts over the last two years. The individual posts to read are in green. I've grouped them under some general subject headings.


Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life

Shedding a House and a Full-time Role

A last spin around America before moving overseas:

The Legend of Starved Rock (Illinois)

Wonderful Food Eases a Newly Empty Nest (Madison, WI)

"An Iron Curtain Has Descended" (Fulton, MI)

Czech Housing:

My First Taste of Czech Village Life

Was Living in Soviet Housing on My Bucket List?

Czech Art and Architecture:

It's David Cerny Appreciation Week

Welcome to Capitalism!

Inspiration at the Post Office

Czech Books:

"I Served the King of England"

"The Restoration of Order: The Normalization of Czechoslovakia"

Czech Fashion:

Beautiful Slavic Faces

Tall Black Boots

First Beautiful Spring Evening in Prague

Out and About in Prague:

The Infant Jesus of Prague

Futurista Builds Upon the Past

I Needed Some Cash in My New Neighborhood

Prague Kavarnas (coffee shops):

Pavel's Prague II: Grand Cafe Orient

Come Join Us for Coffee

Fantova Kavarna Waiting for It's Closeup


My First Week of Teaching English

My First Class of Students

Yea! We're done with Our TEFL Class


"You Americans Are Obsessed With Communism"

Two Capitalist Running Dogs Visit the Museum of Communism

Disarming the Velvet Revolution

President Obama:

Dear President Obama, Please Come to the Czech Republic
(he did, too!)

President Obama will Speak to the Most Vibrant Part of Czech Democracy: the people

Obama in Prague!

Leaving the Czech Republic (unexpectedly and not by choice):

The Czech Government Denied my Visa

What Just Hit Me?

Why Can't Visa Departments be Like UPS?


Empty Nest Expat Blog Among the Best Expat Blogs

Welcome Wall Street Journal Readers

Friday, November 6, 2009

Buying Retail in the Czech Republic

The Palladium Mall
at Christmas time
Inspired by artist David Hlynsky's photos of communist shop windows, I decided to share my consumer's view of Czech retail. One of my students told me in class that Czechs don't really have a retail tradition. All of the grocery stores in the Czech Republic, like Tesco, are owned by foreigners. We had been discussing the Palladium Mall in particular, a gleaming, relentlessly upscale shopping mall two blocks from my place that had opened up in the last two years.

My student said the mall concept is a foreign idea to Czechs. I thought to myself, "you aren't missing much. You've seen one mall (even one as shiny bright and pretty as this one) and you've seen them all." My reaction to shopping in any mall is one giant big yawn.

The Palladium mall
could really be anywhere
in the world,
couldn't it?

There was one Czech retailer that predated communism, a department store called Bila Labut (white swan) which was celebrating it's 70th anniversary. Bila Labut is only two blocks from the Palladium Mall at 23 Na Porici opposite the Legio Bank building . It hadn't yet responded to the salvo of sophistication sent off by the Palladium. It better hurry. When I went inside Bila Labut, I was rushed with long-forgotten memories of the downtown Younkers department store of my childhood, a retail store replaced forty years ago. This store is 'in transition'.

Bila Labut

Bila Labut shop windows
convey what I would call
'dated seediness'

A numbering order
that must be logical
to a different mind than mine

The view from the mezzanine

These merchandising adjacencies
were fascinating;
would you have put these
items together as likely
add-on sales to each other?
I need a pair of sunglasses
because the glare from my cuckoo clock
is too much!

Or maybe there's literary appreciation at work.
Display through alliteration:
tableclothes and tennis shoes!

Need to create an instant department?
Saran Wrap does the trick.

Here's a decorating idea
that hadn't yet occurred to me.
Put an umbrella at the base of my
Christmas tree.

To paraphrase Henry Ford:
You can have any color so long as it is
beige or pink.
My grandmother would have felt
very comfortable shopping here.

Which one of these furniture colors
would you like to have in your home?

If the furniture itself doesn't give you an
idea of the need for an update -
the style names themselves might.
This is the Thelma.
You can also select the Betty and the Linda.

Nothing wrong with the view
from the big factory windows
used in the store - it's beautiful!

The end of communism
was the greatest gift ever
to the Schindler Elevator Company-

imagine country after country
full of buildings
that hadn't updated their elevators
in forty years!

I was grateful that I would be
able to call for help.

I have new appreciation for that
law in America that requires elevators
to post the date of their last inspection.

I enjoy the language used in Czech retail. Businesses often put up signage that says: "our offer:" It has such a friendly sound to it. Then what follows is a list of what they are selling. The big car-oriented shopping centers that are starting to spring up don't say they're open 24 hours a day. Instead it almost sounds like one is at the casino. Those stores want you to know they are open "non-stop." The action never ends!
A wonderful movie captures Czech retail "in transition" from communism to capitalism. I thought I would hate the documentary because it involves a practical joke played against the Czech public. I hate practical jokes. In the end I loved the movie and want to recommend you see it. If you're in the States, you can rent "Czech Dream" through Netflix.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Welcome Wall Street Journal Readers

Welcome Wall Street Journal Readers! I was delighted to see my blog featured in "Blog Watch" by WSJ Online Editor James Willhite in the Wall Street Journal Technology Section yesterday. Thank you, James. I appreciate having the greatest business minds on the planet stop by and say hi!

For those of you who may have missed my mention, click on my title to go to the article. For those of you who want a bit more background on my adventure, here's an interview I did with Expat Blog Directory last fall here. For those of you who want to share my journey from here on out, welcome. The best part of blogging is the created community and friends I've made from undertaking this deeply fun endeavor.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beginning Again

My Czech visa was officially denied, just like the other teachers in my TEFL class. So I begin the visa process again. I am not willing to call my Prague story over. For goodness sakes, I haven't even been inside St. Vitus' Cathedral yet! I have two sets of pen pals that live in the Czech Republic and I haven't met them all yet! I have a Czech friend from twenty years ago I've been trying to locate and haven't found yet. I have so much to go back too there. I heart the Czech Republic and it's people.

My goal is to be back in Prague for the fall term. Just as I did the last time, blogging about Prague is going to help pull me toward my goal. I hope you'll come back.

In the meantime, I've found a f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s apartment with a great flatmate in Madison overlooking the lake within walking distance of the arboretum. Life is not as I expected but that doesn't mean it's not beautiful.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

10 American Pleasures I've Enjoyed Since Coming Home

1. Regular Cheerios with banana for breakfast.

2. Browsing the new books at Barnes and Noble.

3. An American-style Egg McMuffin.

4. An American-style bed with a mattress and box springs and loads of covers and pillows.

5. Spices in bottles.

6. Knowing exactly where to shop for clothes because I'm familiar with the brands and the stores and can get the whole thing done in an hour.

7. Ice cold creamy A&W root beer served in a frosted mug at a pull-up drive-in window.

8. Fabulous farmer's markets.

9. Getting to watch w-a-y too much political commentary on TV.

10. Cooking in a fully-equipped kitchen, not my expat kitchen.

OK, so I enjoyed that. I'm ready to go back now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm a better American citizen for having gone through this

I have to admit that if an American immigrant told me their hardship story about how awful it is to deal with American immigration, my reaction before I went through my own problems in the Czech Republic would have been "good, I"m glad it's hard. The whole world wants to come here and America should honor those who are gritty enough, determined enough, and persistent enough to go through whatever it takes to get in. How bad do you want it? "

Soooooooo, I've experienced a little personal growth here in compassion. I realize now my "survival of the fittest" mentality about American immigration is rude.

I now see how dehumanizing the mix of a language you don't speak and arcane immigration laws that seem to float can be. My friend Lenka, a Czech native, who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin says "Karen I spent hours and hours and thousands of dollars to get my American visa."

This experience has opened my eyes to see that an immigration interaction between a foreigner and my government is just as important to my nation's image as any other interaction. Maybe even more important because it so deeply impacts people's finances.

Prior to this, I could care less about immigration stories in the news because I knew people who were in my country illegally were doing jobs natives wouldn't do, for salaries natives wouldn't work for, and they were most likely leaving a place where they couldn't find work. My eyes would glaze over at descriptions of how awful the legal immigration process is.

However quixotic it sounds, I have learned that it now matters to me how my government treats people who are only trying to improve their life. I want my government to fund enough people to make it not such a laborious process so that even if the answer to whether someone can legally immigrate or not ends up "no," they leave feeling like they were treated with respect. I want there to be enough funding for people's paperwork to be processed quickly.

I was treated with respect by the immigration authorities in the Czech Republic. Yet that one day at the foreign police was enough to make me realize how awful the whole process can be, especially when I know that in my country, it's much worse.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Real and True Blessings

I've safely arrived in Madison and am up early because I can't sleep. Maybe because it's high noon in Prague. Luckily, there's some leftover lemon chiffon birthday cake from my daughter's 21st birthday and ice cold milk.

My journey was totally awesome. Have you seen the floor at the Prague airport? It's perfect for rollerblading! They should shut down the airport for a day and just let everybody try out that floor - it's huge.

I hung out with a 23-year-old Quebecois waiting for the plane. He was so excited about the Obama administration. Wow, it's nice to hear that again. Appreciation for an American administration by someone from another country. I had to ask him about his own region's politics.

"Are you a separatist?" I asked.

"Yes. Being part of Canada is like trying to make a woman love you who doesn't want to love you. She still wants to live in the same house cause she she wants the house, and she doesn't want to be alone, but she doesn't love anymore. Quebec has been sleeping on the couch for years."

Later I asked him, "does all of Quebec use that analogy?"

"No," he said proudly. "It's mine."

My flight was booked on Swiss Air. Oh my, do the Swiss know how to pamper people. That eight hour flight went by quickly, helped by interesting passengers, a totally fantastic entertainment system, and good food and wine. It was like being cocooned for eight hours. I watched the movie "Burn After Reading" which had me rolling in my seat it was so funny.

Part of the time on the flight, I sat and mused how truly, truly blessed I am with my friends. I know I said it yesterday but to be given so much love in so short a time by so many people, it was such a gift. I could not believe the outpouring of caring. That is my real and true blessing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

One year ago I started this blog to help me go through the emotional journey of graduating my youngest child from high school, downsizing and potentially selling my home, and moving across the world from the American Midwest to Prague, Czech Republic.

My home in America

One year ago, I was living a very American mom lifestyle in a 3 bedroom/3 bath suburban home with one child at university and another in her senior year at high school. I only went places by car. I didn't yet know how to blog. I didn't yet know how to Twitter. I didn't yet know how to couchsurf.

I was mowing the lawn once a week. I read somewhere that not having a lawn to mow anymore frees up 30 hours a year. Hallelujah! I still own the house and the magnificent blackberry tree that goes with it. Currently, I have it rented out to some terrific people.

At the beginning of my blogging journey, I was working on what to do with all of my "stuff." I don't think of myself as particularly attached to possessions but once a lifetime of them have built up, the task of thoughtfully going through each and every one and making a decision about what to do with each one is overwhelming.

Fortunately, I found this fantastic book that helped me go through the process in an incredibly empowering way. It's called "When Organizing Isn't Enough: Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life" by Julie Morgenstern. Wow, did that book help me. I didn't waste any years in procrastination before starting. All of those posts are under the label SHED. They used to be the most-read part of my blog.

My children have thrived on their own. Each of them are attending their university of choice and living their own dream. They're loving life and they haven't needed their mother stateside to do it.

Pinch me!

And where am I now? I'm living in Prague!!! In the six months since I moved here, I've found great students, great friends, a great neighborhood, a great flat, a great flatmate, and a great church community. I feel like I'm living my values 100%. Life is awesome!

My property maintenance consists of cleaning my apartment every other week when it's my turn. That takes about two hours max.

I no longer have to worry about oil changes, or tires, or brakes. That frees up even more time. Using public transportation has been a Godsend. In six months, I've lost twenty pounds because I'm walking to and from metro and tram stops rather than merely to the driveway. I have zero worries about traffic - imagine how stress-free that makes life.

Even the stress of having a rotten president has gone away! Hallelujah!

Over a year of blogging, I've written 226 posts. I've had 4,200 visitors and 10,000 page hits. My blog was chosen as Expat Blog of the Month (thank you Julian!) in December of 2008. Now that I'm actually living here in Prague my readership keeps growing about 5% a month. If this were a business that would be an outstanding rate of growth. But it's not, it's just for fun.

And fun it has been. Blogging has helped me focus, focus, focus on achieving my dream of moving to Prague to learn about this beautiful city and the wonderful people of the Czech Republic. Thank you for reading and being part of the conversation!
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