Back in the Czech Republic

We’ve had three months in the US with somewhat limited computer and internet access and very little time to write. Now, we’re back and more will follow.

This is how we described Czech spa wafers to the American cousins

You know when you’re back in the Czech Republic when….

– A store clerk tells you they don’t want to sell you anything.
– A cell-phone service provider agent tells you he knows the advertising lists false prices and he is glad that you won’t be using his company because you would obviously be a difficult customer.
– The president says children are better off in orphanages than in foster families and other countries simply have not caught up to this “modern” way of thinking.
– Six people have been killed in racial hate-crime attacks in the past six months and that is several times worse than the record of Bulgaria AND there has been little or no mention these incidents on the local news, so no one beyond the victims families and international human rights groups is aware of it.
– A clerk returns change worth $10 in small coins and then shouts at the customer to immediately leave the window before she has time to pick up her change.
– When office A sends you to office B to get a certain paper and office B insists that the paper is at office A and you go around and around and around three times.
– People stare when you smile.
– At a workshop for parents of adopted children on how to deal with bullying the primary advice from a prominent psychologist employed by a humanitarian organization is, “Help your children blend in. Be sure to have them watch TV and get a Facebook account. Make sure they have reasonably fashionable clothes and accessories. If they are overly smart, not smart enough, disabled, fat or the wrong color, you’re just out of luck.”
– A North Vietnamese shop keeper is so relieved to see fellow foreigners that he gives American children free lollipops.
– You wake up in the morning and discover that you have been transformed into a beetle.

Last spring before we left for the States I had a bad dream, almost a nightmare but really just one of those fleeting images that comes into your head and you just know the background. It was primarily just an image of me rushing my children out the back door of our house at night with backpacks on their backs and the lights out. In the dream, I knew that my husband was upstairs pretending to sleep and a police car was parked in the road in front of the house. In my head I was planning how we would stealthily climb up the hill behind our house and slip down the railroad tracks to the next town. Beyond that I didn’t know.

The reason for it all was that the Czech Republic had declared all Romani children must live in children’s home institutions, regardless of their family situation, and we had been summoned to give up our children the next day. My husband was upstairs because he was planning to stay and pretend he knew nothing about the plans of his crazy foreign wife, so that he could buy time to sell our house and move our assets abroad.

It seemed awfully melodramatic, even for one of my dreams. But it comes to mind now as news events converge. The president, Vaclav Klaus, vetoed a reform bill meant to strengthen the foster care system and declared that children are better off in orphanages. And anti-Roma violence and harassment has spiked, so alarmingly that even my cynical predictions pale in comparison to reality. And yet, the preschool teacher, who incidentally has figured out my children’s background, came forward on her own and offered to make a special trip to drive Shaye to preschool because I am visually impaired and can’t drive.

When the night is darkest, the stars shine all the brighter.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peter Farnam
    Oct 05, 2012 @ 21:12:49

    I love the Kafka reference! Made me chuckle. Keep up the good work. I’m looking forward to the next installment.
    Bop Bop


  2. Julie
    Oct 06, 2012 @ 00:50:49

    WoW. No one will believe it’s all true — the happenings of one week home.


  3. Hana
    Oct 06, 2012 @ 12:59:05

    Vítejte zpátky, Arie! Moc mě baví tvůj humor a nadhled s jakým dokážeš komentovat naší realitu. Tvoje poslední historky jsou neuvěřitelné! Vždycky si tvoje příspěvky ráda čtu. Hanka


  4. Lindsay
    Oct 06, 2012 @ 14:03:05

    :0 Just posted on some very similar issues here, on the blog 😦 Depressing isn’t it. Might – big might at the moment as S is not well today – drive up to Prague tomorrow for the European Roma Pride march (details on article). Can’t seem to find out if there is one in BA.


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