Czech Republic,  Daily Life,  Film,  Language Learning,  Lifestyle,  Winter

My Winter Joys, Goals, & Other Things

How’s that for a title after that last post? Thank you for your nice words and reaching out; I’m feeling a bit better these days. The photo taken above was at our annual half-term cafe day at the mid-point of the school year, this time taking place on a bench in my favorite square. I like this photo because even though I wasn’t doing well, I wasn’t going to not participate in this annual tradition – you’d have to drag me away. It seems somehow hopeful. Typically I really like January (and this one has been lovely!), and even though it hasn’t been easy, I can’t but help still feeling really positive about the start of this new year.

It’s helped that we’ve had absolute dumpings of snow, like much of Europe, off and on since early January. As I had a little bit more free time than usual this month as I prepare to start a new job position (!!) next week, it’s been wonderful taking afternoon snowy walks with Alex and Ferdinand. Starting a new job has meant some sad goodbyes to longtime students (some over five years), but these things sort of just have to happen, I try to tell myself.

There’s been walks along the river, snowman spotting, neighborhood strolls, loads of park walks and a fair bit of ice-skating already this winter! I foolishly claimed that it seemed like winter was on its way out here after a handful of balmy days, but it is truly back now. Hoping for more days on frozen ponds with a thermos of tea and all bundled up.

As usual, I’ve been spending my free time doing, as usual, a fair bit of studying for my “continuing education” pursuits. I thought perhaps… just maybe… it would be nice to have the goal of taking the B2 Goethe exam in German language whenever things open back up a bit around here, simply just to have a goal. I really don’t need the certificate for any particular reason, but wouldn’t it kind of be cool to have something like this, hanging on the wall, to show for what feels like a lifetime of effort with this language? I’m thinking yes. Also, with this certificate I could potentially study for a degree in German language, should that impulse ever strongly take hold. Who knows.

With my Czech language studies, we are coming to the end of Lída Holá’s famous bright yellow and green introductory textbook, Czech Step by Step. This has been how many years in the making? Over five? I remember a funny anecdote of sitting in a common area at my school when a friend of mine passed by and noticed I was writing in my green Czech workbook. “I did that book,” they said. “Didn’t do shit.” It always makes me laugh because I think there is an…. ahem…. proper way to go through language textbooks, and without a qualified teacher, you are just pointing at things and saying “Není to Antonín Dvořák. Je to Škoda” and that’s about where you can find yourself. I’ve already planned on a celebratory video when we do finish the book. We’ve also started watching more Czech television, serials and films since the new year began, so I suppose you could say that I’m taking it all a bit more serious now.

Není to Antonín Dvořák. Je to Škoda.
For crying out loud.

I am also formally studying herbalism, as I mention from time to time, and currently in the early stages of earning my intermediate level certificate, which I aim to complete by May 2022. We have time – still optimistic I can pull it off! Even in the winter time, that means we have jars of chopped roots here, orange peels soaking in vinegar there… but that’s another typical week in our house.

Things are about to be a bit crazier when I start my new position as I’ll be working more than full-time hours (until I get the nerve up to tell people “no” – time will tell), but I’ve loved furiously reading piles of books this winter. Personal reading as well as two novels per month for my book club and the Year in Translation challenge is keeping me more than busy! As I can’t get enough of little celebrations, especially in these dark winter months, we’ve turned Year in Translation into a special full-day event one Saturday per month.

Last month for January in Japan, we had “Japan Day” – I fixed us a traditional Japanese teishoku breakfast with salmon, rice, miso soup and tamagoyaki. I suppose this day was mostly an excuse to watch Seven Samurai (1954), which is something like three and a half hours long, in two parts, and then have sushi delivered for dinner. I wonder what we’ll come up with for February in France? Alex has so far been participating in the reading challenge with me, but that could just be because we have so many Japanese books at home – I predict some waning when it comes to France.

My theory for this lockdown (and every day!) is: if it’s not fun, make your own fun.

This week has been all kinds of fun already since we are fully participating in what I’m calling this winter’s Berlinale (where we once were supposed to be next week!): Das Filmfest! All this week until February 14th, a new (fairly recent) German language film is being shown nightly, and you get 48 hours to watch each one in case you get behind! (available in the Czech Republic only) I am so for these organizations’ commitment to bring culture into our homes, even during lockdown. So far we’ve watched Oskar and Lilli which was truly unforgettable and better than many films I’ve seen at actual film fests, The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch (a funny, over-the-top look at orthodox Jewish culture in Europe), and tonight… a documentary about bread. Nothing like bread to start the weekend… I guess.

What this year’s half-term cafe date looked like.

As we’re in a hard lockdown here in the Czech Republic and it’s the middle of winter, I sometimes lose an interest to share here in this space because everything just seems so rote to me, but please let me know in the comments if there is anything you’d like to hear more about in a post! Whether Czech culture, cities, daily life, scenes from lockdown, herbalism/minimalism, DIYs, food stuff – please let me know what you’d like to read about!

All in all, I’m feeling really positive in general right now. So many joys can still be found in the deep winter. Maybe that looks like a surprise treat of Valentine’s donuts at a time when you’re just really craving a real donut. That Guitar Guy is out even in -8 C temperatures, smiling at you and strumming away. Or that it’s been snowing for the past few days and everything is fluffy and sparkly. Even when there wasn’t supposed to be joy for a variety of reasons. We can find the joy, or make it ourselves because this is our life, we are living, we are alive right now.

Wishing you a beautiful wintertime. Anyone have fun plans for Valentine’s Day? We are going to stay in (where else these days?) and order a special menu brunch delivery, watch a movie, a snowy walk (I hope), and cook something special together for dinner.