úterý, prosince 31, 2013

New Year's resolution

The beginning of the year 2014 came and with it time for new year's resolutions.

I was never prone to make them explicitly, but it doesn't hurt to change one's habits from time to time.

Being reasonably realistic I'm not starting my list with "I'll climb the Everest" - although I love the mountains this one is far away and too high and I know I wouldn't be able to climb it - nor "I'll dive in the Red sea" - diving never appealed to me though I appreciate others can have a passion for it.

However there are few achievable goals
  • stop trying to be perfect
  • trying to say "no" without qualms
  • acquire a healthy balance between the physical and intellectual activities complemented by sufficient relaxation doing nothing
These basic rules should help me to achieve more complex goals I have in mind such as trying to convince my fellow Czech citizens that to have a functional democracy we all need to participate and stop waiting for a hero who will do everything for us.

During this long term procedure I need to be prepared for some rudeness, some may send me to the hell, some to the ass (jdi do p****e ~ f**k you) ...
Since the last day of 2013 I can reply "thank you, but I was there already". The rock formation "Prdel světa (Ass of the world)" also called "Ďáblova prdel (Ass of the devil)" can be found in the nature park Česká Kanada.

Have a great year 2014!      


úterý, prosince 17, 2013

Christmas muse


Christmas is (are, whatever) around (behind, whatever) the corner and it usually makes you think ...
about the year so far, about the year coming, about ...

and at some point you just do not want to think anymore, you just want to live your life ...

Is it possible?
I guess so ... if you accept some constraints ...

For example it is not possible to live the life as if you were 20 (30, 40 ...) if you are almost 40 (50, 60 ...). The age will catch up with you whether you like it or not.

Also it is not a shame to say "no, I can't do this or that" because you grew up in a family (country) where it wasn't allowed to complain.

Some can survive without noticing the stress,
some even look out for some adrenalin to survive,
some get sick ... and I mean really sick (lymphomas and other types of cancer that can be cured, but getting the life back is like coming out of prison).

For the year 2014 I wish everyone could live according to his/her own needs as trying to live to someone else's expectations is a burden whether the expectations are voiced or not (eg. imaginative).

Have a great time everywhere!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

neděle, prosince 01, 2013

Writings and the incidental (mis)understandings

In the past few decades we have seen a huge boom of writings in the connection with the development and grow of the World Wide Web. There are traditional books, newspapers and magazines, but also the number of websites and blogs is growing, Seems that almost everyone with the ability to read and write does.

This is great!
The technology makes it easy to spread the information fast and worldwide, but are our brains ready to make some sense of it all?
After all not everything is applicable everywhere and for everyone. Take the weather forecast around the globe - what is the weather like say in Panama would only interest me if I were to spend holiday there which is very unlikely.
Of course, I still ask google first if I need to know where is the country talked about in the news, that's exact and there is only one answer - although it usually appears on many different pages and in many different formats ;). For more complex questions where expert or local knowledge is beneficial I would rather ask the expert - or whom I consider expert in te field in question and better in face-to-face conversation, because trying to clear up anything by e-mail usually leads to more confusion on both sides of the line. Needless to say that it is frustrating if you - as a sender - consider each word and its place in the sentence and after getting a reply you realize the recipient clearly took from your carefully written mail completely different meaning.

This is quite common I think as only 7% of the meaning is in verbal communication and the reaction to the e-mail sent is not immediate. You write an innocent "have a good day" mail in a good mood after the breakfast, but the recipient reads it after a dispute with the boss at the time the l'esprit d'escalier takes on and you'll be the one shouted at. Yes, it is not fair, but ...

To avoid such misunderstandings the mailers should have a sensor and refuse to send or read a personal e-mail in case of person's bad mood. Words are like arrows and can't be recalled.

However, do we want to have so much control taken over by the computer programs? 
What do you think?
Did you have a moment when you thought "oh shit, I shouldn't have written it" or the opposite "oh shit, does the sender think I'm a complete moron"?
If so, did you let it fade away or tried to come clean?

čtvrtek, listopadu 14, 2013

Expat's Everyday life and the Politics ...

Another Autumn came, I'm about a year "back" home (= my home country Czech republic) and I wonder - how much can a "normal" citizen influence the statesmanship ... and the behaviour of the politicians representing the country and its citizens?

We were leaving the country in 1992, just 3 years after the velvet revolution in 1989. The borders were open so were just going to "temporarily" work and live in another country.
Václav Havel was our president and I was proud to be Czech. We eventually spent 20 years abroad, 16 years of it in the established democracy in the United Kingdom. We are returning in the year of our first ever direct presidential elections and although I'm still proud to be Czech I'm not proud to be represented in the world by snooty and arrogant Mr. Zeman whom we democratically elected.

A lot changed in the Czech republic since 1989, we have thriving cities, probably one of the highest number of supermarkets per capita, but also statistically one of the highest alcohol consumption among adults (maybe the "beer tourist" help to raise the number :)), beggars and homeless people. ... and chaotic political spectrum which is tricky to be acquainted with.

Politics wasn't my main topic in England.
Firstly I wasn't proficient enough in English to be able to understand politics, secondly I was generally satisfied with the life there, thirdly I was only living there "as a guest", temporarily. And - of course - as EU citizens we could only vote in the district where we resided with a 'considerable degree of permanence'.
In the Czech republic I can and do vote in both - the district and the parliament elections - though seemingly with the same extent of influence I had in England.

What are your experiences?
Can you vote in your home country if you live elsewhere? Can you vote where you live?
Should the expats vote in the home country as well as in the country of residence?

úterý, října 29, 2013

Joys and woes of repatriation ...

I've read and talked about the topic a lot and probably best description I found is in Naomi Hattaway's blog I am a triangle and other thoughts on repatriation. Especially I liked the bit about kids who develop in the cross-culture environment and will always be Stars - with multiple points of reference.

However the Circle Country and Square Country model gets a bit more complicated when you need to learn new language to be able to live in the Square Country. For people from English speaking countries it is not the necessity as in the global business environment English is mostly used to communicate. But the rest of us should learn at least English if we want to live elsewhere, though the language of the locals is helpful too ... especially when rising the kids.

And that is when it gets tricky, interesting, complicated, challenging ...

It is well known fact that kids learn languages in the most natural way and can achieve the native speaker's competence even in second-language. Some of the basics is described on Wikipedia. The older you get the harder it is to achieve this fossilization ... and for sure your kids - if you have some - will be fluent in no time (half a year experts said to get used to the language) though living abroad is not only about the language. It is also about the social life and the longer you live outside, the harder - or more challenging - it is to repatriate.

Being born in the Czechoslovakia in the fifties my parents had quite hard times to look after the family,
growing up through a bit of liberalization in the sixties there was a hint of optimism in the air - I was only 13 when we were occupied in 1968 - the solders were led to believe they are liberating us from counter-revolution,
my personality formed during normalization when we were fed by the propaganda that everything in the West is bad without the real possibility to convince ourselves by travelling,
so I was quite happy that the West-East wall fall and we were able to travel and also to work abroad ... and eventually learn the languages not just as a subject at school but as the means for communication which I was able to use in everyday life.

Coming back to the Czech republic feels like going further. I know and love my country and definitely Praha is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. However we are still on the way to democracy and miss those 40 years after the 2nd World War countries in the West used to reshape their democracies, which may not be perfect, but are functional and stable.

I know after those 20 years abroad that no place is ideal and all expatiates miss something, though not everyone is willing to admit.

I do admit that I missed:
  • my Czech relatives, friends, Praha and the countryside in Germany, but it was easy enough to get into the car every now and then and it was challenging to learn German 
  • my Czech relatives, friends, Praha, the countryside and changing seasons (had impression only Spring and Autumn is there) in England ... we used to bring also bread, but it is not necessary any more as English bakers bake darker sorts too.
Back in the Czech republic I'll have the Czech relatives closer, will be missing my foreign friends and most importantly my kids, that grew up while we were abroad hence started their lives there.

... that's the life
... and we go further through the black marshes along the white cliffs ...

[the saying is from the set in Voskovec+Werich piece Ballad from shred, first played in 1935

"At that time (~ middle ages) when one king sent a courier to another king to convey to him he is a sod it took time. Today you have it e ... e ... e ... e ... e ... they know it before it is said. ... Of course the truth is that today they are not so touchy. ... You understand the clown at that time had a social mission. When a king ruled the country surrounded by camarilla, separated from the nation, he wanted to know the truth. But who was there to tell this truth? There was no radio, no newspaper, who was there? So they sent a clown. Clown told the truth, the king kicked him - they always pay for the truth by the kick, that's an internationally recognized currency - the king knew what he needed to know, clown got what he deserved and ...
... they went further through the black marshes along the white cliffs."]

pondělí, října 28, 2013

Forces driving me to write this blog ...

What's the matter?

Not much, I'm coming home - meaning to the home country - after 20 years living here or there depending on the jobs my husband or I got.

Having gone through the chemotherapy in a non-home-country increased my homesickness - quite common among the expatiates, particularly ladies, I've learned - to the unbearable state and for few years my main thought was I WANT TO GO HOME. That feeling was loosing the importance as my recovery progressed, but there was nowhere to return.

I put the increased homesickness down to the fact that just after the chemo my physical and mental state corresponded to one of a 80 years old in spite of being middle aged and thrilled from the job I had and generally satisfied with the life I had. However the treatment and the recovery  - not in the home country - took few years and while I needed to slow down to be able to re-start again all my connections - family and friends - needed to go on in their lives ... and I felt lonely.

Since then I seem to be drawn to the expatriation, repatriation, language education, bi-and more-lingual ... matters ... reconciling with the need to reshape my own life for the retirement slightly more than my piers that only deal with the retirement process and do not need to repatriate at the same time.

... and some philosophical essays will follow :)

středa, října 16, 2013

... a léta běží, vážení ...

... a v Čechách máme před předčasnými volbami do parlamentu ...

... a já se rozhodla podporovat stranu TOP09, která je nejbližší mému vnímání světa.

Zde nabízím několik odkazů na jejich webové stránky, kde si můžete přečíst:

Zápasíte-li s časem, věnujte pozornost článku  5krát PROČ pro volby, nenapsala bych to lépe.

Žila jsem 20 let v cizině a měla možnost vnímat zvenčí změny, ke kterým v Čechách docházelo. Šlo nejen o natírání fasád, ale i o změny na úřadech, v dopravě, v podnikatelské sféře ... povětšinou pozitivní, pokud srovnávám se stavem před rokem 1992, kdy jsme z Čech za prací odcházeli.

Věřím, že s TOP09 udržíme vývoj v České republice na cestě k funkční demokracii.

neděle, května 12, 2013

Dva roky ubehly ...

a manžel stále pracuje v Saudské Arábii. Inu, ale, což ...

Práce je tam jistě zajímavá, o tom není pochyb - pracovat v mezinárodním společenství je vždy zajímavé a vzrušující. Sama jsem měla příležitost pracovar pár let v Evropském institutu bioinformatiky v Hinxtonu, UK, takže vím, o čem mluvím ... ale role oddané manželky uprostřed pouště se zbytkem rodiny na míle daleko by byla jednodušší, kdybych se narodila v Asii a ne ve střední Evropě ;) ... nebo byla aspoň o 20 let mladší a neměla rodinu a přátele jinde.

Ačkoliv se může zdát že si stěžuji, není tomu tak. Poznala jsem relativitu života v různých zemích (jen si zkuste jet na pravé straně silnice při pobytu v Anglii ;)), ale vracet se domů po 20ti letech v cizině, když jsme původně odjížděli na rok a půl je něco jiného, zvlášť když je naší domovinou Česká republika, která se po sametové revoluci v roce 1989 postupně mění v demokratický stát ... občas i tady si připadám jako cizinec :)  A někdy se může hodit pohlédnout na Prahu (a zbytek republiky) očima cizince.

Praha v letech po sametové revoluci vzkvétala, domy a pamětihodnosti se opravují, došlo k výraznému zlepšení hromadné dopravy, čím dál více informací je dostupných i v jiných jazycích než česky ... a knihkupectví jsou plná nově vydávaných knih včetně těch v dobách socialismu zakázaných - což znamená, že až se po návratu usadím, budu mít co dohánět. Uvidíme ...

Two years on ...

... and my husband still works in Saudi Arabia. Well, well, well ...

No doubt about the fascination of the job there - working in an international environment is always interesting and enhancing, I've had the privilege to be working for a while in the European Bioinformatics Institute, Hinxton, UK so I know what I'm talking about - but playing the role of a devoted wife in the desert having the rest of the family miles away would be easier if I were born somewhere in Asia and not in the central Europe ;) ... or were at least 20 years younger and didn't have any relatives and friends elsewhere.

Although it may seem I'm complaining, I'm not. I've learned the relativity of living in the different countries (just try to drive on the right-hand side of the road in England ;)), but coming home after 20 years when we originally planned to be away for one and half taking into account the Czech land's changeover into a democratic country since 1989 is a different matter ... sometimes I feel like a stranger here too :)

Having said that it may not be all that bad to view Prague (and the rest of the republic) using the eyes of a tourist.

Prague flourished during those years after Velvet revolution, houses and monuments are being renovated, public transport improved considerably, more and more information is offered in other languages than Czech and more and more books are published including those banned before 1989 meaning that I'll have a lot to catch up once I settle back. Let's see ...