Friday, October 30, 2009

We All Made Friends...

This week at school was Culture Week. The week was full of excitement. On Monday, PK3 through 5th grade gathered in the theater to listen to a Czech Folk band sing, dance and play different instruments. In my classroom, my 3 year olds shared their family boards, decorated flags from their countries, baked apple strudel, and made a friends/world collage. To end the week, this afternoon all the Elementary children, teachers, and many parents gathered again in the theater to listen to a Gypsy band play and dance. Many of the children and teachers (including me in my Louisville Slugger baseball shirt and converse) wore clothing that was significant and/or related to their cultures. When the band began to play, the children spontaneously waved their country flags in the air and swayed and moved their bodies to the music. As I looked around, I saw a sea of faces and a variety of color- a connection among the ocean of difference! It was beautiful. It is very different celebrating culture from an international school perspective. In the states, we view ourselves as a "melting pot" with an "open door" policy. In the past few years teaching, I would say that even in 4 and 5 year olds, I see this ideal fading away. On Monday, one of my 3 year olds asked, "Miss Nikki, what is culture?" To which another child responded, "It's who you are." Wow! This week, my faith in children as the hope for our future was redeemed. We read the book, "What a Wonderful World," a picture book with colorful illustrations to Louis Armstrong's song. When I asked the children what made the world wonderful many of them responded, "people". On my classroom web page I have a quote spoken by Carla Rinaldi, from Reggio Emilia, Italy which says, "When you have quality of life for children then you seek to have quality of life for humanity." There is no greater reason to teach than to seek a life for children that is better tomorrow because of what you teach them today...
"I hear babies cry, I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll ever know, and I think to myself what a wonderful world..."
-- Nikki

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Vatican expereince!

Michelangelo's "Judgment Day" fresco on the wall of the Sistine Chapel. (It is a bit blurry because I had to be sneaky to take the photo... not supposed to... oops!) Standing in the chapel, I was amazed at how I felt. I didn't come to Italy- home of the church, the Pope, Roman Catholicism, and think that I could be effected by the paintings on the wall. But I was. I stood there and reflected on the meaning behind each biblical representation- Adam and Eve, Daniel, Jacob, the disciples, the last supper, and so on and so on. Over 40 years, Michelangelo worked on this ceiling, painting each fresco with detail, and as I stood there I wondered if and how each of these pieces of Christian history effected his life?
After about 30 minutes standing and scanning the room, I managed to find a seat along the side of the chapel. I thought about the words to the song Here in Your Presence by New Life Worship: "The heaven is trembling in awe of your wonder, the kings and the kingdoms are standing amazed... here in your presence we are undone; here in your presence heaven and earth become one; here in your presence all things are new; here in your presence everything bows before you..." I pulled out my iPod and listened to the song and got tears in my eyes... I realize that not everyone who walks into this chapel and stands there staring up at the incredible artwork is going to see things the way I do, but God totally used Michelangelo to tell his story on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel... Millions of people know and read about it; it is part of history books. Thousands upon thousands visit and see it with their own eyes- and maybe some of those thousands will simply admire it while others will know what I am talking about. But today, I sat there praying that people would be changed upon entering this place, that they would view Christ's story on that ceiling with fresh eyes- and walk away renewed.
There is so much Christian history within the walls of the Vatican Museum. The photo above is a faded bronze sculpture of the Ark- little pairs of animals, Noah and his family carved into the sides. Another reminder to me of the renewal Christ privides. I spent 4 hours in the Vatican Museums. I soaked up so much history it is bound to come pouring out of me at the first chance I have to explain what I saw here. The extent of the collections here are incredible and showy- which seems to go against the nature of living simply. But each piece tells the story of faith, belief, and change throughout time. Today was truly an incredible and meaningful experience for me.
Mom and Dad, this photo is for you. A statue of a goat in the Animal Hall. Apparently, this goat was a big deal... P.S. How is landscaping goa-ting? Ha Ha Ha That cracks me up!
Finally, "The Sphere within sphere" sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro... rain or sun this sculpture shines boldly! Maybe that is it's purpose... to shine no matter what it is weathering. All in all, the museum was a fantastic experience- worth the 40 minute wait in the pouring rain! Tomorrow I head back to Prague. I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and seeing my friends. I am grateful that I have had this downtime and explored another part of the world! Where will you find "Nikki-Waldo" next... wait and see! Ciao! -- Nikki

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roma- Day 3!

The famous Trevi Fountain. Remember yesterday I went and couldn't stand the crowds... well, I read in the Lonely Planet ITALY guide that going in the morning allows you to better enjoy the fountain before the crowds overtake it. True! It was lovely. I sat there for about 10 minutes admiring the stone work and listening to the water flow. I threw a euro in and instead of wishing for something random and whimsical, I said a prayer for others who are less fortunate than myself- who cannot eat, who live in poverty let alone take trips to Rome.
I moved on from the fountain to the Pantheon. The columns are massive and the dome ceiling is super cool! The inside of the Pantheon is really detailed with marble and sculptures all around.
Before I went to the Spanish Steps, I happened to walk too far toward the river and ended up at Castel de St Angelo. I planned to come here tomorrow along with my visit to the Vatican which is about 1/2 mile up the road. I walked around the structure and along the bridge and it was just beautiful. It isn't a traditional castle with turrets and arches and all details on the outside of the building. Instead, it is solid stone and rather ugly, but located along the river and with the sculptures along the bridge it brings a different beauty to this structure.
And here they are, the Spanish Steps... well they are under all the people! I walked to the top of them and sat down to rest my feet and look at he view. It was busy busy here, and full of beautiful people shopping on Via de Condotti- Prada, Hermes, Gucci, Cavalli, Burberry, etc., - you want designer this is your district. For me, it is just enough to walk down that street, because fortunately for my bank account (and whoever marries me) I am not a designer type of girl! The rest of the day, I spent walking around Rome, wandering in and out of shops, buying Italian leather boots (oh baby!), eating pizza and gelatto, and just soaking up the sunshine- t-shirt weather people and I should have brought my sunscreen!
Piazza de St. Peter and St Peter Basilica. I will venture closer to the other side of this square to what is referred to as Vatican City. But today, since I was so close, I decided to walk over and experience the buzz of the masses (no pun intended) while the sun was shining. Tomorrows weather looks like rain so I plan to be inside the Vatican Museums with guided audio tour in hand (and ear)... until I can't take it anymore! For now, I am on to my regular evening ritual which includes a good Italian meal, a glass of wine to un-wine-d (get it!) and then to my bed to relax my achey bones from all the walking! I bought a book yesterday at the Colosseum called "The Christians and the Fall of Rome"- so far it is a very interesting read! Hope you are all well and enjoying the updates. I wish you were here- all of you, and if you come visit me in Prague, we may just have to make a weekend trip to Rome! Ciao-- Nikki

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roma- Day 2!

The inside of the Colosseum was amazing. It is incredibly huge. I bought a guide book for 5 Euro and it show pictures of the Colosseum before it began crumbling. It was beautiful back in the old Roman Gladiator days.
It was a beautiful day to visit the Colosseum. The sun was shining on the architecture and really brought out every detail of the structure. I wandered around and around and around, stopping to read about certain parts of the Colosseum. For me, a lover of history, being inside the Roman Colosseum was seriously exciting!
Instead of following the crowds along the main tourist route, I decided to take the long walk along the back side the Colosseum and Palatino. This turned out to be a bit longer than I expected, BUT totally worth it because I ended up at the top end of the Roman Forum. I was standing above looking toward the Colosseum and down on the entire Forum arena...
If you have never seen pictures of the Forum in history books, it would be hard to imagine what it looked like when it was a true Roman "shopping mall". But I am sure it was bustling with people just as it was today.
After the Colosseum and Forum, I just wandered around Rome for hours! I walked to the National Museum (which I might go to tomorrow), down to the Piazza Venezia where I stopped on the street just in time to see the Police Brigade on horses salute, surround and guide the prime minister to some important date I am sure. It was totally cool to run into this... very Italian patriotic. After that I wandered over to the Trevi Fountain. It was the most crowded I have ever seen a place.. much like the Charles Bridge in Prague. I could only handle the crowd for about 10 minutes then had to head to San Crispino, a gelatto place near the fountain that a friend from Portland told me to try. She was right, the gelatto was incredibly creamy and rich. I tried the Caramel and the Honey flavors- good combo! After about 6 hours walking around the city, I came back to my hotel to rest my legs, feet and take a short rest before heading out to eat an Italian dinner. I will turn in early tonight. Tomorrow I am planning to take in another Museum or two, visit the Spanish Steps and Piazza Spagna for some designer store looking (even my Euro wont go far there...), then on to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona for some real Italian shopping. Thursday I will spend the day in Vatican City where I plan to pay the extra 5 euro to walk to the top of the Sistine Chapel... that too will be an exciting history nerd thing to do! and who knows, maybe i will run into the Pope... ha ha ha
Love you all. Ciao-- Nikki

Monday, October 19, 2009

Welcome to Roma!

Arch of Constantine
The Colosseum and the sunset!
WOW! I cannot believe that I am seeing this!
Well, I made it to Rome! Upon arriving to the Fiuminco/Roma airport, my plane taxied into the runway then we waited forever to deplane. I then took a shuttle bus to the main terminal where we waited an hour (no joke) for luggage- just standing at Carousel 10 waiting, waiting, FINALLY luggage! Welcome to Italy where everything is on someone else's time schedule! This airport is a 30 minute train ride from the center of Rome. It is a beautiful ride through the countryside to the center of the city... and when you step out of the train station instantly you are out of the country and onto the tight streets of Rome, covered with people, cars, scooters and lined with shops, hotels and restaurants galore! After wandering around the streets of Rome for an hour (with my backpack on and turning my map around and around), I finally oriented myself and made it to the Saint Maria Maggorie Basilicia- the neighborhood where my hotel is. Thankfully, I found an information booth and the nice, good looking Italian guy pointed me in the right direction- only two blocks away- to my hotel. I was so close to finding it on my own- Rome is so confusing! My hotel is typical Italian decor and the single room is super tiny, but it is perfect for just me. After settling in, I decided to walk around my area and get oriented. I walked all the way to the Colosseum. When I turned the corner and saw the massive structure before me I nearly lost my breath. My steps grew quicker and I had this goofy smile plastered on my face. I am such a typical tourist, and I immediately started snapping photos! I walked all the way around it and over to the Arch of Constantine... both are such amazing structures and still standing after all these years! After my journey to the the Colosseum I ate Roman Pizza (sooo tasty) and now I am relaxing in my hotel until tomorrow. I have a busy three days ahead of me as I take in as much Roman history as I can stand and of course, do some shopping... (not too much mom, don't worry!) Ciao friends! -- Nikki

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Taco Salad-- My grandma sent me packets of Taco seasoning in the mail... something I miss, something that you cannot get in Prague. I used one package the other day and made a yummy Taco Salad!
One of my favorite things to do on Saturday or Sunday afternoon is go to PAUL bakery. It is a French chain, but the first time in Prague, and it has INCREDIBLE breads and pastries. I usually take Tram 20 from Dejvice to Andel (about a 15 minutes tram ride), where I enjoy superb espresso and buy bread for the week. I often buy the Muesli bread- a wheat bread with oats and grains, but the Olive bread -with big green and black olives, is my favorite. Today, I decided to try the Raisin bread because a co-worker swears it is one of the best loaves in the bakery. She wasn't kidding- I toasted it, slapped some Peanut Butter on top and it was delightful! This might have trumped the olive bread as my favorite!
On Monday, I leave for Rome. I am staying at a hotel not far from many of Rome's main attractions... I am excited and only slightly apprehensive about traveling on my own- the benefits include being on my own agenda, taking as much or as little time in a museum as I want, eating when and where I want, and reading an entire book at numerous cafes over many cappuccinos. I usually travel with people because I like to have the security of "being in it together". This trip to Rome, alone, without my friends is a journey I feel ready to take-- I need the experience at least once- I have to bust out of my introverted shell and meet some people on my own! I just hope my trusty map of Rome, which happens to be in Czech, does what it needs to and gets me around with some adventure!
Ciao Friends...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mala Strana and Hradcanska- the Castle District. This afternoon, after work, Cody, Carrie and myself took a walk from the top of the castle down into Mala Strana.
We walked through the a garden area at the top of the Castle and the base of Petrin Park. The weather today really felt like fall- brisk, sunny, slight wind! The leaves are changing colors, the sun was shining, and it was perfect for a late afternoon walk.
Before heading further down the hill to a cafe, this was the view we stopped to admire. In front of us was the Vlatva River with Mala Strana on the left side and Stareomesto and Nove Mesto on the right. The lamp post was in my way, but I took the photo anyhow.
This is a better shot I took from the mid garden and it shows the trees, the hills, the castle, and the city below it. Just lovely!
Carrie, Cody and I enjoyed a few beers and appetizers at a small cafe that Cody and her husband, Michael found a few weeks ago. I love trying new places and this was a quaint cafe that I would return to. The prices were great, the people were friendly, and the food was delicious. We shared Venison Pate (mom, tell dad it was INCREDIBLE), Beer cheese which is a semi-soft cheese that you mix together with paprika, fresh onion, ground pepper, and a tablespoon of beer... then spread it on bread. It is actually very tasty! We also shared a plate of this other Czech cheese that I cannot remember the name of but is very good also and served with a tangy cabbage slaw. It was a light meal, good conversation and a relaxing way to spend the evening.

It has been a long, long week for me. In addition to my regular workload, I had an unexpected parent meeting, an all staff professional development afternoon, a three hour planning meeting with my PK team, a meeting with my bank manager, a two personal meetings with an administrator and the school business office. My vocal chords were exhausted by the end of today and I think that my single beer this evening was well earned! I am looking forward to resting this weekend. I tried to find tickets online to a World Cup qualifying match tomorrow evening. The Czech takes on Poland in what should be a very good game. I have yet to succeed in this and My plan is to try getting tickets tomorrow morning right from the stadium.. wish me luck and I will keep you posted! Love you all -- Nikki