Friday, December 26, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

On the road again

I don't know if any of you have tried to set up appointments with medical specialists, school enrollment, and living arrangements from about 5000 miles away. Even with the wonders of technology - the Internet and VoIP telephones, it's not an easy thing! But let me back up a bit...

Here's a reader's digest version that will bring you up to date. In May '07, Danna was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome. Up until this last month, her course of medication has kept the syndrome in check, and we've had a "normal" year here in Prague - exploring castles, traveling around Europe, and starting Kindergarten. Well... that's all about to change a bit. Danna recently stopped responding quite as well to her initial medication, and her doctors here have recommended that she move to the next commonly recommended treatment. Unfortunately, the Medical experts at the US State Department (Kevin's employer) don't believe that this treatment should be done here in Prague, and have set up a "medivac" for Danna for further evaluation and treatment in the US - treatment that could take up to three months or longer.

We've now adjusted to the reality of this "exile" from Prague, and have gotten busy the last couple of days! Trying to arrange plane tickets, funding & approval for those tickets, a school for Jad, and most importantly of all, trying to set up Danna's appointment with a specialist... all from 6-9 timezones away! (What did we ever do before the Internet?)

The latest in our ever changing lineup sounds something like this: we have an appointment set up with a specialist in Dallas, just a couple hours down the freeway from "home base" in Oklahoma City. We have a planned flight out from Prague this Thursday. Kyler's just started exploring the limits of his "climbing" ability, so the cross-Atlantic flight should be "fun". We've contacted a school close to Erin's parents' house in OKC, and it looks like Jad should be able to slide in to American kingergarten next week.

One "fly" in all this this ointment? Kevin "gets to" stay put here in Prague while the rest of the family flies of the the US. He's planning to join them for Christmas... But being a "geographical bachelor" is not that much fun. At least he'll get Jad's legos all to himself for a while, and won't have to share his "Asterix and Obelix" books!

The kids are thrilled at the prospect of this "adventure". They established pretty strong roots in Oklahoma during our home leave before arriving in Prague, and have been regailing us with stories of all the friends and family they're going to see, things they're going to do, and places they're going to visit. Of course, the aforementioned friends and family in Oklahoma are pretty happy about spending some time with the family as well!

By the way... though Danna has a Kidney condition, she's really not "sick" in the common sense of the word. Though she knows her "kidneys don't wook so well", that's a little less important to her at the moment than her collection of Princess dresses, or the schedule of Saturday morning cartoons! Her course of medications so far keep her happy, healthy, energetic, and full of beans (she has an opinion about everything, of course). The treatment that will most likely be recommended when she sees the specialist next week is the normal course of treatment for kids with her condition... A condition which is most often outgrown as the kids head toward the teenage years and beyond.

OK - more as we know it! We'd appreciate your prayers!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A cowboy in Prague

One of the great advantages of overseas living is that you get to rub noses (sometimes quite literally) with folks from just about every nationality in this big wide world. In Jad's Kindergarten class of 16, no fewer than 10 different nationalities are represented!

Last Friday was "International Day" at Jad's school. Being a red-blooded Oklahoman/Emirati/Omani/Zimababwean/Oregonian, there was no question as to what Jad would dress up as. A cowboy! What kid wouldn't? He even brought his stick horse "Silver" (as in "hi-ho, Silver - away!") along for the grand parade of nations.

In addition to parading around in national dress, parents in Jad's class set up activity centers representing each continent - helping the kids make a craft or learn something new along the way. Erin helped with the Africa table - in honor of Jad's first home in Zimbabwe.

This week, Jad heads off on a new adventure... his first experience as a Kindergartner in the America (technically, his "home country")! It's going to be quite a difference... most likely, there will be one or two nationalities represented, instead of ten. And as Jad pointed out, "everyone will speak English!" And... he'll get to ride in a yellow school bus! As a fellow Third Culture Kid, though, I can't wonder if he's not going to miss being a cowboy flanked by buddies in Kimonos!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Rubesh Guide to Berlin

So - our first ever school vacation. With Jad out of kindergarten for Fall Break, we decided to head up north to Berlin for a week. Berlin - a city of culture... of fantastic architecture... of fascinating history. Oh wait... we have KIDS. What I really meant was Berlin, the city of playgrounds... of kids' museums, of INDOOR BEACHES! Read on for the scoop on how to enjoy a week in Berlin, with kids in tow!

Legoland Discovery Center: OK - I have to admit - even I was excited about this place. If you've never played with legos... well, you've missed out! These tiny plastic construction blocks can be assembled into just about ANYTHING you can imagine! Fire breathing dragon? Check! Batman? Roger! Einstein? Why not? Legoland in Berlin is two levels of lego fun - featuring everything from life-sized statues to miniature versions of Berlin landmarks, and a ride through a medieval castle guarded by a dragon... all made out of our favorite mini plastic building blocks! Our favorites were the "4D" movie theater, the "Build and Test" zone - featuring a test track and earthquake generators, and face painting (OK - this one had nothing to do with legos... but it was fun!).

Location: Potsdamer Platz - the rear of the Sony Center, underneath the movie theater.
Entry Fee: 48 Euros for the family.
Tips & Tricks: The combo ticket gives you entrance to Sea Life (see below) for 5 Euros extra per person instead of the normal 16 € for adults and 11.50 € for kids.

Aquadom & Sea Life: A small, but very well done aquarium - taking you on an aquatic journey starting at the smallest creeks and winding its way through rivers, lakes, and eventually to the depths of the ocean. Along the way, meet the critters that live in these underwater worlds - up close and personal! Kyler's favorite was the hands-on splash pool where you could look and touch (and make a watery mess). My favorites were the walk-through shark tank and the glass elevator that slowly rises through 25 meters of tropical waters - filled with thousands of fish. That's about as close as you can get to diving without getting your feet wet!

Location: 10 minute walk from Alexanderplatz
Entry Fee: 5 Euros per person with a combo ticket at Legoland (Adults 16 €, Kids 11.50 € if you purchase these tickets alone).
Tips & Tricks: Don't forget the glass elevator "Aquadom" - which sits in the lobby of the Radisson Hotel next door. Exit Sea Life through the souvenir shop, walk across the alley and through the restaurant to the elevator. Show your Sea Life ticket for the ride.

Berlin Zoo: Prague has a great zoo. Berlin's is even better! It's not a huge place - but it boasts the largest number of species of any zoo in the world. Wagons are available to rent for 3 € at the Lion Gate (closest to the U-Bahn station), and are worth it for families with little feet trudging alongside them.

The animals held the kids' interest for a while. The petting zoo was a lot of fun. What really caught their attention, though, was the fabulous playground in the middle of the zoo. That alone would have been worth the price of admission. Nestled in the woods just across from the bear enclosure, surrounded by picnic tables, and adjacent to a restaurant with Hefeweizen on tap, the playground is the perfect place to camp out on a nice day and turn the kids loose (we just have to wait for Kyler to get old enough to turn loose!)

Location: Zoologischer Garten U-Bahn station
Entry Fee: Adults 12 € (18 € with Aquarium entrance), kids 5 and older 6 € (9 € with Aquarium)
Tips & Tricks: There must zoo maps available somewhere... however, we couldn't find them. You might want to print off a copy before you head over there.

Tropical Islands: Wanna escape a drab Berlin winter? Here's the idea. Take an abandoned blimp hangar. Build a Thai village. Create a beach with tons of imported sand. Fill two giant pools with water. Plant a tropical rainforest between the two... and hey presto - add a couple hundred deck chairs, you have the tropics in the middle of Europe!

While in the Middle East, we escaped the heat on the snowy slopes of Ski Dubai. Here in Europe, we do just the opposite... coming in out of the cold to the warmth of Berlin's Tropical Islands. This place is impressive - the top of the dome roof that houses Tropical Islands is 107 meters above the sand... with no internal supports. The larger of the two main pools has a "Truman Show" feel to it - with a huge mural of a blue sky forming a backdrop at the horizon. You can stay overnight in one of two campsites, or at the "Maharajah Lodge". Take a hot-air balloon ride - inside the dome! Watch shows, play minature golf, ride the highest waterslide in Europe, relax in a hot tub, or just kick back in the sand. The islands' Tropino Club play area for kids gives the Berlin Zoo's playground a real run for its money.

Want a day in the sun... no matter what the weather's like outside? The Tropical Islands hit the spot!

Location: Approximately 35 Km south of Berlin - just off E55/A13. Take exit 6 - Staakow towards Golßen (follow the signs to Tropical Islands).
Entry Fee: 25 € per adult, 19.50 € for kids. Yeah... it's not cheap. But it's the beach. In BERLIN!
Tips & Tricks: Get there early. Though the islands are open 24 hours a day (you can camp out on the beach), we hit a morning rush at about 10:00 AM, and waited in line about 1 1/2 hours to get in. If there is a line, enter the building through the left side of the double doors. That side splits into 4-5 individual lines inside the building. The folks on the right side all have to wait for one attendant. You'll be issued an electronic wristband, with which you'll be encouraged to charge up as much food, drink and other services as possible. You pay only when you exit... and if you're not careful, you'll be surprised by how fast things add up!

KinderCity: KinderCity is sneaky. It's two floors full of hands-on things for kids to play with. They'll be having so much fun playing that they may not realize that they're learning along the way! The place is organized into different "knowledge lanes" - each teaching kids about something different. There's a section about the human body and our senses, one about movement, a mini TV studio where you can dress up and take turns giving the weather forecast or running the control board, and more! Downstairs, the kiddos can play with water - building dams and seeing how balls navigate through the rivers they've created... before shooting the balls back up to the top again. Great fun!

And - while the kids are busy having fun (and surreptitiously learning)... the big kids can check out the fantastic Titanic exhibit. Plan to budget at least an hour on this fascinating walk through the history of the Titanic and its ill-fated maiden voyage, complete with artifacts from the ship, stories of the key players, and life-size replicas of some of the Titanic's staterooms. Recorded commentary in your language of choice is keyed to the different artifacts, photographs and models. The display houses the best scale model of the ship I've ever seen - with one side of the model cut away to reveal the inside of the ship. Fantastic stuff!

Location: KinderCity is a couple blocks away from the Alexanderplatz UBahn, on the top floor of the Alexa Shopping Mall.
Entry Fee: 9.50 € per kid (including a ride on the train or car track), 8.50 € for adults (I guess they figure the big kids don't play as much). A combo-ticket including the Titanic exhibit costs 10.90 €.
Tips & Tricks: The food court on the mall level just below KinderCity is a great (and inexpensive) place to fuel up before continuing your Berlin Adventure.

Berlin City-Circle Tour: There's no better way to see the city than from one of the many double-decker tour buses. The City-Circle bus route takes about 2 hours to cover its 15 stops around Berlin. You can hop on or off the bus as many times as you want throughout the day. With three tired kids, you don't do much hopping though... and the bus is a great place for a quick afternoon nap while Dad and Mom soak up the sights! Recorded commentary at each seat in a number of languages will let you know what you're seeing, and give you some of the history of the town.

Location: We hopped on at Alexanderplatz... though you can join the tour in progress at any of the 15 stops.
Entry Fee: 20 € per adult. Kids under 6 free.
Tips & Tricks: If you didn't have sleepy kids with you, this would be a great way to get to a couple of the major attractions we didn't get to see - the Reichstag, CheckPoint Charlie, etc. You could stretch the tour out to a full day - your ticket is good for 24 hours worth of hopping!

German Museum of Technology: We finished up our trip to Berlin with a day at this fabulous museum. Spectrum is a kid's museum - four floors of hands on displays - pulleys you can yank, lasers you can point, drums you can pound on, and even a house that makes you think you're going upside down! Even Kyler tried his hands (and feet) at most of the displays.

Down the block in a separate complex of buildings is the main museum. Train Locomotives inhabit a reconstructed engine house. Models of ships of all shapes and sizes, airplanes, rockets and more fill four floors in the new museum building. We just barely scratched the surface of this museum... I could have spent days exploring it! Unfortunately, the not-so hands on aspect of the main museum buildings (except for the hands on train engine that Engineers Jad and Danna loved "fixing") make it not quite as interesting for the little guys.

Location: Möckernbrücke is the closest U-Bahn station.
Entry Fee: 4.50 € per adult 2.50 € for kids gets you into both sites.
Tips & Tricks: Though most of the exhibits stand in their own right, almost all signage is in German. If you have the time to put into really exploring this place, pay the extra couple of Euro for the 90 minute audio-tour.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Franz's Place

We had some great weather here on Saturday, so we packed up the mini van and headed out to Franz's place. Only it wasn't just any Franz - it was Franz Ferdinand. And it wasn't just any Franz Ferdinand - it was Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Oh - yeah, and it wasn't just any old Archduke either. It was Archduke Franz Ferdinand d'Este, Prince Imperial of Austria and Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, and heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. You know, the guy whose assassination in 1914 kicked off the First World War.

With a title like that, you've gotta figure Archduke Franz had a pretty nice place - and you're right. Nestled in the forest, high above a lake and elegant gardens, Konopiste Castle today is a showcase to the Archduke's three passions - hunting, travel and jousting.

The castle lies about an hour by road from Prague. Parking in the big lot below the castle will set you back 60 Czk per car. From there, you can hike past displays of cheesy souveniers, about a kilometer up the hill to the castle. Alternatively, you can hop on a "train" for the uphill journey (150 Czk for our family). Once the kids caught sight of the brightly painted train, it quickly became the only real transportation option!

The train drops you off at the upper gardens, where you can wander between statues (the stone lions make for great riding) and leafy trees, chase real, live peacocks and make your way to the castle moat. Now I've heard of moats filled with water, guarded by crocodiles... but never before a moat guarded by a real life bear! Why, you could watch a bear walk around in circles for hours!

The main entrance to the castle interior lies around the back of the castle - past massive doors which guard the entrance. Here's where you can buy tickets to one of a number of guided tours which lead you through the castle's real wonders inside. We picked "Tour 2" - mainly because it was in English and at the right time of day. On crowded days, you may want to make a reservation for a particular tour ahead of time via the castle's tour reservation system.

Any good hunter (and Franz was quite a hunter) keeps a nice collection of weapons. Our Archduke, however, went a bit overboard. The halls of the castle are lined with thousands of elaborate swords, crossbows, and guns of all shapes and sizes - and that's even before you make your way to the Armory. The castle also has a very small percentage of the Archdukes "Prizes" (animals he bagged). Our guide calmly informed us that the good Archduke took down over 300,000 animals in his career as a hunter. We did some quick math and figured out that would have come out to about 20 animals each day of his hunting career. A bit far inflated, we thought... but he definitely had an interesting collection - including animals from the US, the far East, and even some bits and pieces of three elephants shot during a trip to Sri Lanka.

A couple of the highlights of the tour were the visit to the family's private chapel (the family occupied a heated side area of the chapel, where the rest of the servant folk were in the main Nave of the church); the hydraulic elevator, complete with comfy lounge chairs for the minute-plus ride up two floors; and the library, home to hundreds of books hundreds of years old, as well as life-sized portraits of the family. The men's salon / smoking room (featured in the movie The Illusionist) leads to a lavishly decorated "harem" - appointed in middle-eastern style. Our guide assured us that only the men gathered there (not the harem). The tour cost us a bit over 400 Czk, but was well worth it!

We grabbed a quick bite to eat in the canteen next to the greenhouse in the elaborate formal gardens of the castle grounds before heading home. A better option? Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on a nice day (but remember not to feed the bear!) The walk back downhill to the parking lot was an easy one... even for the three tired kiddos. A Trdelnik stand in the parking was just what we needed to wrap up our visit to Franz's hideout in the hills. There's nothing like warm roasted cinnamon dough coated in sugar and nuts to fix those last-minute munchies!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Under the Jackalope's Gaze

We recently discovered a new favorite restaurant here in Prague. With "bottomless" drinks, free meals for kids under 10, and an honest to goodness Jackalope mounted on the wall, "Buffalo Bill's Tex Mex Bar and Grille" is our kind of place! Buffalo Bill's is just a couple blocks away from the Mustek metro station on Wenceslas Square.

In our never ending search for good chips, tacos and burritos, we've found some real doozies here in Prague. Buffalo Bill's though is the real thing! Melted cheese... salsa... chips... guacamole, and more Bill Cody paraphernalia than you can shake a six-shooter at! (Oh - and no soya sauce in sight!) And... did I mention? Bottomless drinks? In a country where a 1/2 liter of beer usually costs about half as much as a European-sized, 8-ounce mini-bottle of Coke, the idea of free refills is a rarity, to say the least!

As you descend the stairs into Bill's underground lair, you're surrounded by movie posters, chuckwagon accessories, Native American costumes and weaponry, and YES - an excellent specimen of the Wild West's most fearsome critter - the horned Jackrabbit known as a Jackalope. Jad and Danna just had to touch it to make sure it was real. As you're waiting for your meal (brought to you by waiters that actually SMILE!), chill out and enjoy the country music playing in the background!

Often, restaurants overdo the decor to cover up pretty poor food. That's not the case here - the portions are large and tasty, at prices which won't break the bank! If you're looking for good TexMex in Prague... this is the place for you. I'm getting hungry just writing about it, and can't wait to go back again!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

47th Ain't Bad

I finished 47th in a Triathlon this weekend. To be precise... my finish time was the 47th-best of all the non-junior category man racing the "Open" sprint-distance triathlon. Now, if you're thinking 47 is rather a large number... well, you're right.. actually.

To my credit though, it has been a long time since I've run one of these races... and I really haven't swum more than a lap or two since left the balmy waters of the Arabian Gulf... and - oh yeah... some of the other triathletes in the water on Saturday were actually members of the Czech Olympic Team! Anyway - my finish time of 1 hour, 25 minutes 41 seconds was a WORLD RECORD for people named Kevin Rubesh participating in this particular race. And it was fun!

One of my colleagues at work convinced me to join him in the Open Triathlon just a couple days before the race. The Open category was open (thus the name) to non-club racers, and was "just" sprint distance - 750 meter swim + 20 km bike ride + 5 km run. Because it was run at the same time and on the same course as the Czech National Championship race - an Olympic distance race going double the distance in each discipline - the Sokolov Triathlon attracted pretty large crowd - 140 competitors in total!

As usual, I came out of the water in about the middle of the pack, and proceeded to lose ground dramatically during the bike and the run. One fun bit about this race - since it was the National Championship - it was televised. This meant that while I was huffing and puffing along on my bike and on the trail, I was passed not only by elite Olympic athletes going at least double my speed... but also by the TV crew on motorcycle. Fun!

I actually made a brief appearance on the TV broadcast - hit play on the video clip to the right, and fast forward to minute 36 or so. Behind the woman being interviewed, you may be able to spot a tall fellow in a blue shirt walk across the screen, then plop down on the grass to stretch after finishing the race - yep, that's my grand entrance to the Czech National TV scene!

Being a Czech triathlon, the race was followed by an extensive raffle prize giveaway - including gifts such as homemade bread and salami, umbrellas, food baskets... and even a plasma-screen TV!

Unfortunately, this is the last race of the Czech Triathlon season... but I think I've just been re-hooked on this sport. My goal for next year? The coveted 45th spot on the podium (and some salami, of course).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First day of Kindergarten

I'm sure it was just the other day that we brought Jad home from the hospital in Dubai! Just a month or so ago that he was tasting dirt in Zimbabwe. It couldn't have possibly been more than a week ago that he was splashing in the surf of the Persian Gulf in Muscat. It doesn't really seem possible that our little boy started Kindergarten today!

But there he was this morning - in his new school clothes, his Wall-e backpack in one hand, a note to his teacher in the other, raring to head out the door to class! He crawled in to our bed this morning at 5:30, telling us that he couldn't sleep... yep, he was excited!

It was a day of learning new rules, making friends, and figuring out how things work in this wonderful new world called school. He informed us that he met one friend who was a girl who had a "really cute voice" (he didn't remember her name though.) Oh - and that he wants to go back tomorrow!

So - our first graduation has now officially taken place - from the "School of Mom" to the International School of Prague. Jad's first step of many to come... on a journey away from the shelter of home and into the big, wide world that awaits him!

Jad's ready! But are we? After five years of sheltering him in the secure surroundings of home, are we ready to let this boy of ours take his first tentative steps into the big wide world?

He'll meet bullies and have to figure out how to deal with them on his own. He'll bring home new vocabulary (not all of it good), and learn that you can't always win. He'll make mistakes, and have disappointments. Find new friends... and loose friends. Skin his knee when we're not around to slap on a band aid. He'll see things he's never seen before, and make discoveries all by himself. And continue to travel... down the path we've started him on... towards becoming his own person.

Travel well, Jad - and know we'll always be just a couple steps away!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Date Night #16 - Hummus & Beer

Date Night 16 - August 10, 2008
Temperature: High - 77 °F / 25 °C; Low - 46 °F / 8 °C
Location: U Cedru Restaurant

So - it's been a while since we've been on a date night... April 13th, according to our Blog records!

This one was more of a "working" date night. Our job? To explore a new neighborhood so that we could do our jobs as sponsors a bit better. In the line of work I'm in, folks come and go with surprising regularity... a sponsor is your friendly face on arrival in a new place - whether it be New Delhi, Harare or even Prague! Someone to show you where the fuse box in your new house is, where to dash off to at 8 in the morning if you're out of milk, and, most importantly, where to find the closest plate of hummus. We're due to sponsor a new family who will be living in a different part of town, and we had no idea where the closest Lebanese restaurant was! Fortunately, given that we're talking about Prague 6, it wasn't a terribly difficult task.

After wandering around the neighborhood for a while, discovering the closest metro and tram stops, the location of the nearest potraviny (Czech mini-mart), and other essentials, we decided it was time to sample the local Lebanese cuisine. U Cedru ("at the Cedar") restaurant, on Na hutích street just off Dejvicka circle, hit the spot perfectly! On a balmy summer afternoon, very few things could beat a table outside, a plate full of Lebanese mezza, hummus and arabic bread, and a tall pivo. The food was great - the only downer being the slightly stale bread which tasted like it had been broken out of the bag a day or two before. For desert we had their baclava - a sticky, sweet pastry, washed down with a couple cups of Arabic coffee - the kind that's so strong you could almost eat it with a fork.

This is the second Lebanese restaurant we've sampled in Prague - it's a little less "upscale" than El Emir, which translates to a little cheaper as well - Czk 900 for the two of us - that's almost cheap by Prague standards!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jad and His Hair

A couple of months ago I decided to expand Jad and Danna's music repitoire. (And Kyler's too, but he is too young to have a favorite song.) It was time to move beyond "Jingle Bells", "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "The Wheels on the Bus". So, being a good mother, I pulled out an oldie but goodie -- "Bob Marley's Greatest Hits". this was music! Reggae at its FINEST!!! Nobody sings reggae like that famous Jamaican, Bob Marley!!

I put this classic CD in the car and it became a hit almost at once!! We quickly decided as a family that "Three Little Birds" was a favorite. This song has that familiar chorus "Don't worry, 'bout a thing; every little thing's gonna be all right." We have taken to singing that bit of the song whenever a crisis occurs, such as misplacing a favorite stuffed animal or when Kyler knocks over a newly built tower of blocks. Another favorite is "Buffalo Soldier". Since this song is about black slaves being forced to serve in the US army and fight Native Americans I guess I'll soon be explaining a tragic part of American History. But for the time being, Jad and Danna think this song is about a guy riding a buffalo and being a soldier. Ahhh...ignorance is bliss!!

So what does this have to do with Jad and his hair?? During his entire life of 5 years and almost 8 months, he has always worn his hair short -- buzz cut. In fact, since the age of 2, Jad and Kevin would go and get their hair cut together followed by a trip to the ice cream store. Recently Kevin planned to get his hair cut and when I asked Jad if he was joining his daddy, he simply answered, "No." I was rather shocked, so I phrased the question in another manner, "Jad, don't you want to go get your hair cut with Daddy?" Jad had a sincere reply ready, "No Mommy, I want to grow my hair like Bob Marley." So, next time you see a white skinny 5 year old with dred locks, it might be Jad!!
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Of Manatees and Rowboats

Meet the newest member of our family! Flash is a manatee (also known as a sea cow) who lives in Florida. We "adopted" Flash from the Save the Manatee Club a couple weeks ago, and just got his picture and adoption certificate the other day (OK, so he is a bit pudgy... but that's a good look for a manatee.)

Jad discovered manatees a month or so ago, while watching an episode of the "Reading Rainbow". Ever since, he's been very concerned about the fate of these large, slow moving marine mammals. One of the biggest threats to this endangered species is injury from propellers on motorboats cruising the waterways of Florida.

The other day... in the middle of his normal activities (figuring out if he could fit a manatee in the bathtub, conducting science experiments, saving the world, building "inventions" and "reading" Tintin and Asterix and Obelix books), he decided it was time to pray about the situation.

"Dear God" he started. "Please help all the people in Florida to drive rowboats. Amen." Talk about a specific, logical prayer request! If all the people in Florida rowed rowboats, the number of propeller injuries to Manatees would certainly decrease dramatically. Of course, whacks on the head by an oar may become more prevalent, but oars are seldom lethal.

So - if any of you out there are reading this from Florida... for Flash's sake... please consider trading in your Boston Whaler for a nice, reliable rowboat. Just think of the money you'd save on gas alone!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hole-in-the-wall Hallal

We've been here almost a year, and it's taken that long to finally find it - a good hole-in-the-wall Indian/Pakistani restaurant here in Prague! We were out on a Friday Family Fun Night, trying out the playground on Opletalova, just outside the Hlavni Nadrazi train station (a fabulous playground, by the way). Dinner time was fast approaching, so we turned to our trusty Prague in Your Pocket to scope out the neighborhood dining possibilities.

One of the first to catch my eye was Hallal Fast Food - just a couple blocks away on Ruzova street. It's not hard to see why this place had escaped our attention for so long. Tucked away down a side street a couple blocks off the beaten path, you'd really have to be looking for this place to stumble across it.

The kids were very impressed by the fact that we were the only ones in the place... and by the green walls (they had redecorated since the picture above was snapped). Even more impressive, though, the kids actually liked the food! Jad and Danna scarfed down their chicken curry. Even Kyler was munching happily away on hot chapatis and aloo gobi. My discerning Sri Lankan tongue gave it the official third-culture-kid stamp of approval.

The food came quick, and hit the spot. So what if the staff was neither Pakistani nor Indian (they were Bengali) - at least they knew how to nod/shake their heads in the authentic South Asian way! The menu was pretty complete - and, from our limited sampling - tasty! Danna suggested that Erin and I return here for a "date night." Must have been the romantic ambiance!

The only disappointment? The after dinner "chai" - which consisted of a Lipton tea bag dunked in a cup of hot water... a couple packets of sugar on the side and milk added - but only when I asked for it.

Have a hankering for authentic curry at prices that won't break the bank? Head down to Hallal Fast Food!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Kyler's One!

Kyler's officially a number old - he turned ONE yesterday. To help celebrate the event, we had a very special guest - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stopped by in Prague - just to help celebrate! She had to break away from the party a bit early to meet some Czech parliamentarians, sign a treaty, attend a state dinner, and run some other errands while she was in town. Dr. Rice did stop long enough to comment on Danna's Cinderella dress, meet Jad's friend "Panda", and wish Kyler a very happy birthday! Kyler, of course was much more interested in grabbing the hair of the kid standing next to him.

The second most exiting event of the day? The chocolate cake, of course! We have a tradition in our family - turn one, and you get to plant your face in a chocolate cake - stuffing it in your mouth whichever way works best. Kyler had no problems fulfilling his role as a our latest one-year-old-cake-eater!

A job well done, I'd say... only thing left for me was to help the special guest hop back on her plane this morning.

Monday, June 30, 2008

NFL - Czech Style

OK - so yes, Ice Hockey is big in the Czech Republic - no big surprise there. Football (soccer) - sure - it's even worth rioting about on occasion. But what about a real American import - American Football? We're happy to report that the game is alive and well here in the Czech Republic. The Czech League of American Football's "Maxima Bowl XV" took place last Friday - between the Prague Lions and the Prague Panthers. We decided we'd root for the Lions - as they had prettier uniforms.

The attendance at the brand new Eden Stadium was nowhere near capacity crowd of 21,000 - but still the turnout wasn't shabby - around 3,000 diehard Czech fans made the trip - up considerably from the 800 or so that show up at a a typical CLAF game. For these guys, this is pretty big stuff... a new arena, fireworks, the opening kick booted by the American Ambassador, a totally obnoxious band playing during the breaks in action... and most importantly... "EIGHTY CZECH CHEERLEADERS!" The MC, wearing a football-sized pendant on a silver chain around his neck, made sure to announce the number each time the 80 cheerleaders took the field.

There were a couple token Americans on both teams (and in the crowd), but for the most part, both the players and the spectators were Czech - completely immersed in the American world of first downs, penalty flags and scrimmage lines.

The cheerleaders, of course, were Danna's favorite. Jad and Kyler were far more interested in the noisemaker horns they passed out to everyone on the way in. Erin and I just soaked up the Czech-American atmosphere. Bramborák , Klobasa, Gambrinus and... Football? Final score: Lions 14, Panthers 21. See y'all again next season, y'hear?