'wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking. we're all wanderers in life.' -spanish poet, antonio machado

Sunday, March 29, 2009

the story behind the story...from Tom's POV


Didn’t even jostle your senses, dangle a carrot or even play on words. Just ripping it right out there! It happened, it’s definitely ‘official’, (ahem)…Megs and I are going the distance! We’re getting married! I know, it’s unreal and I feel (have felt and will continue to feel) HELLUVA blessed! To be honest, look at us, nothing has changed (ehrlich!!)! We’re both still very much in love and happy and are looking forward to spending our lives together. It’s just that Megs now sports an über-chic, crystal-clear rock with a hip-n-oh-so-trend-setting on her left ring finger. We’ve both realized a while ago that something (the earth’s magnetic field) or someone (the all-powerful God) bigger than us has brought us together. In our minds, we are far from perfect, but are (without an itsy-bitsy doubt) perfect for each other. We love each other to no end and, in that spirit, I submit to everyone the story behind the story.

Knowing that everyone under the sun (or at least our closest friends and family!) will want to hear what happened, where, when and even how, I decided that it might make sense to write a sort of letter. The idea for putting it down on paper came to me at Schiphol airport (Amsterdam) and I continued scribbling down notes during the overseas flight back. Gosh, I am already giving away the details (we were overseas!) before I even started story-telling! I guess I better get into the meat of it!

It was all conceived when I came up with this super-complicated scheme to ask her. The thought was that I need to draft a deck of riddles or short puzzles or quirky-goofball questions of sorts that Megs was to respond to with one-word answers. Yeah, Megs hates riddles too, so what better way to convince your girlfriend to marry you than to attack her weaknesses! Let’s show-n-tell a bit, check it (sorry guys, couldn't post all of the pics here - but if you want to see 'em, ask me and i'll send the pdf version of this note).

Now, this was easy for Megs to answer because ol’ Ogden Nash wrote this one, our favorite limerick. Here is some more flavour.

So, for this question, I gave her a few clues, like this is the flag of the country the place is in. Peru, duh!

And, there used to be a civilization there once upon a time. Not the Aztecs, but close. Yes, yes, yes, the Incas.

And, this animal (tree frog) lives there, in this sort of environment (swampy rainforest), and this place is located on this continent (hint, hint, HINT!).

Megs easily got the answer to this question as well, answering Macchu Picchu (we’ve always chatted about heading there and to emerge at its base rather than to tour it by bus).

It went on and on (more puzzles/riddles), with exactly fourteen such questions being asked in the week or two leading up to the proposal. She was nailing each of the answers, left and right, no problem. I was starting to believe that I wouldn’t have to rely on my back up plan, which was that I could simply confuse her into marrying me! Everything was working out and we finished trudging through all of the questions and answers in the deck. Perhaps she noticed where this was heading or maybe not. Either way, we definitely weren’t done with the questioning. There was one more question and it would involve unscrambling the first letters of each of the answers she gave me for the first fourteen. So, basically, try and unscramble LYRIUMROLMWAYE into a question. I told her, “I prepared something for you, a set of ‘love letters’ that you can use to help you unscramble the final question”. The love letters were actual letters, the exact first letters of each of the answers, hand-drawn by hers truly and placed into envelopes addressed to her (by the way, our history behind the love letter goes back as far as the history behind asking each other riddles - we have done this since the beginning). Either way, she picked up the stack of love letters and promptly asked me whether she should open them right away or whether she should wait. I’ll have to admit, she had a twinkle in her eyes. Nevertheless, I tried to stick to my cover, which was that this “special project” of mine was designed to just stimulate the creative side of the brain. I assured her that she could open and unscramble whenever she wanted. Playing dumb (me, that is), I told her she could lay them all out, unscrambled, in a late night city metro ride. Nevertheless, it just so happened that at the end of the week we were planning to go to, well…, just about the most majestic, medieval Bohemian village a three hour bus ride from Prague could find. She told me with a wink that she wanted to unscramble the letters in Český Krumlov. I thought that was splendid.

The bulk of the week leading up to the weekend was awesome. We were getting excited for our weekend, but we had little time to actually think about it. The week was super loaded with activities. Our Monday was stacked with an alternative free tour of Old Town and Hradčany with our favorite crass, Jewish, lead pub-crawler (Isaac shout-out!). Hands-down the most entertaining two hours you could ever spend in Prague. That night we cooked together and afterwards enjoyed a round of quiz bowl at the Kavarná. Monday was spoken for. Oh, dang, here is a great spot to embed a few more pictures from Prague. Take a peek!
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Alright, back to the prose. So, Tuesday was also packed, but with preparations for the St. Patty’s day party at the Czech Inn hostel (where Megan works as team leader/manager). We also made sure that any individual inkling of Irish nationalism was branded in what we were wearing (or drinking!) There was a live cover band, plenty o’ clover leaves cut-out of green construction paper (that ended up littering the walls of the Kavarná) and, you guessed it, green pivo! How jolly it was!

Wednesday was more tamed and we spent it recovering from smooching everyone that was wearing a ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ t-shirt. Whoa, what a night! Like a horsefly gnawing on exposed skin while sun-bathing, Megs had to wake up early because she had Czech language tutoring. Of course, being the gentleman that I am, I made sure to wake up and go with her (I didn’t mention this before, but Megs takes these lessons twice a week and she is doing awesome. She would tell you that she doesn’t study enough, but I will tell you that listening to her struggle through forming conversational Czech phrases is about the cutest thing ever. The way I see it, whatever will help her learn Polish!) In the late morning, I had a chance to share a buttermilk stack with the older brother, Zach, and was able to get a little of my own work done back at the best hostel in Europe (Czech Inn, of course!). We were able to kick our feet up in the evening with a short run up to Vyšherad and a pleasant night of grilling out at community group with the Stewarts.

Thursday was spent at work with Megs. I joined her again in the AM and then took off for the afternoon to pick up a set of bus tickets for our Krumlov(e!) get-away, to gossip with Talitha and to spend some time capturing more photos on my own. That night was also packed with activities, because we attended a din-din party at the Baker’s place followed by a round of closed room karaoke. We even played the Wii version of dance-dance revolution and watched the tournament (madness!) from three different laptops tapped into internet live-streaming. After returning to Megs’ flat, we quickly packed up and started dreaming about our weekend away from the Czech capital city.

Friday morning started out with a tiny bit of breakfast and a dash to Wenceslas square. We picked up a few more bags of Haribo Pico Ballas (more gummi food, what a surprise!), a packet of tissues (for my snotty little nose) and wound (or winded) our way underground to the Florenc bus station off the yellow line. Soon enough (by mid afternoon) we leapt onto the bus and off we went, to Český Krumlov! An iTunes movie or two later, we had made it. We met a sweet middle-aged couple from Montana on the bus and together we meandered our way into the central square of the quaint town. After they helped us map out our way back up part of the hill to the hostel we were staying at, we parted ways. Our weekend alone had just begun!

So, now I embark on the most important part of the story behind the story. That night we meandered down and up and down the cobblestone alley ways in search of sustenance. After striking it terribly poorly at several of the recommended pubs, we settled on eating at the Cikánská Jizba (the local gypsy outfit). There were accordions and laughter and goulash and, of course, plenty of cheap but awesome brew. Afterwards, we headed back to the Krumlov House, our cozy little (take-your-shoes-off-at-the-front-door) home away from home. The two Aussie managers (Emma and Cam shout-out!) were wicked, giving us the (Red) Attic Room with the most complete two-paned view I’ve ever seen (we joked about how small the windows were!). But, to give credit, the view was amazing. Overlooking one of the several turns the Vltava makes through the town, dusk and dawn seemed to exhibit more purpose. We crashed to a movie, never to see the credits.

The next day (Saturday) was awesome. We experienced everything that was inked on our map. From the town-wide touted horká čokoláda (literally, melted HOT cacao in a cup, yummy) to freshly-squeezed fruit juice concoctions to cinnamon Trdelniks (famous pastry) to meat galore at the Krčma Satlavské (where you can confuse them to seat foreign out-of-towners through spoken Polish jibberish). We seemingly never missed a beat. After climbing up to the castle, which was beautifully built into a rocky cliff, we descended back. When we reached our attic, Megs told me she was going to open the love letters and …the rest is history and we lived happily ever after. Ha-ha! Just kidding! This is the part of the story behind the story that most gossipers live for, so I heed their bugged eyes. So, she starts slowly opening the letters, one-by-one. For some reason, the unscrambling of the letters was the easiest part of all of this for Megs. She knew exactly what question I was ready to ask her. She was sitting on the hardwood, while I wrapped around her on my side. She asked me, “so, are you going to ask me?”, with the now completely un-scrambled question lying out in front of us. I responded, “of course, will you marry me?!” Without a hint of doubt or a chirp of hesitation, Megan resoundingly screamed “YES!!!” Great success! After we had our moment, I passed along another envelope addressed to her. She opened it only to find her engagement ring. From that moment, the CELEBRATION WAS ON! That night, we did everything! If Český Krumlov exploded, it wouldn’t have been enough. We needed more fireworks. First, the two of us took a long walk halfway up the hill overlooking the town. I told her about it all. She wanted all the details, like who knew, how I came up with the proposal, la-da-da-da-DA! So, I shared and shared and shared some more. It was an amazing time, actually. We grabbed a bite, found our way to a hookah bar, sipped on some Himalayan tea, sucked on some crystallized ginger and headed to a local pizzeria. After scrapping together a handful of coin, we downed another pair of tall cold ones and wrote down who could be in our wedding party, who was going to be responsible for this and that and the other. After the brainstorming session, we headed for a live blues backslash jazz concert at our befriended Mirek’s Antré bar (same place with the killer hot chocolate). Our night was consummated by several bags of Haribo gummi food (of course it was!)

WOW! What a story (behind the story)!

Now let’s direct our attention to the bare essentials. The wedding date is still TBD. We will certainly keep you posted on the developments. Until then, we thank you for your genuine outpouring of love and blow you kisses!
LOVE (and smiles),Megan and Tom

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Megan and Tomus sittin' in a tree...K-I-S-S-I-N-G...first comes love...

then comes MARRIAGE... (and we won't even mention that last thing yet :))!!

Yes, you heard right...Tom proposed to me during his stay in Prague last week while we were staying at the Krumlov(e) House in the sweet, sweet southern bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov - more details to come in the next few days. Tom is working feverishly (literally, as he caught a bit of a bug when he left Prague) to compose a beautifully-written engagement letter detailing our story to to the tee.

Until then, I love you all and hope you are all doing very fabulous-ly.

sweet sweet love, hugs and kisses,


Saturday, March 14, 2009

a song/half of blanky for tom...he's coming tomorrow!!

This is a very special post!!

The day's just keep flyin' by and things are getting better and better...i am really enjoying my time here and i understand that things aren't always easy. Czech lessons are rough...but I am glad I am doing it. The day-to-day interactions are rough, but they are so important in the grand scheme of things because these experiences are what makes this whole life experience so unique and massively important.

Today I was on a run (apparently I'm a runner now) on the cobblestone streets of Praha and decided to take the path not less traveled. Meaning, I decided to do big loop that entailed me running across Karluv Most. For those of you Americans who think this isn't it a big deal...let me frame a pic for you. First of all, no one runs here. If they do run, they run in parks. And, they run during the day. I decided to run on a Saturday night, across the Charles Bridge. hee. And while I was running on came this Plain White T's song called, "1,2,3,4" that totally grabbed my attention.

The lyrics go: "Give me more lovin' than I've ever had, make it all better when i'm feeling sad, tell me that i'm special even when i know i'm not. make me feel good when i hurt so bad, barely get mad, i'm so glad i found you. i love being around you. you make it easy. easy as 1,2,3,4...there's only one thing to do, three words for you, i love you...there's only one way to say those three words, and that's what i'll do, i love you..."

So true. This one's for Tom. Please keep Tom in your prayers as he flies over the big blue to see me, and pray that He would watch over us this week as we enjoy our time together. It isn't always easy to be thousands of miles from the one you love, but Tom makes it as easy as it can be.

And, believe me - Tom is awesome. He is so awesome that I would even do this for him:

Yes, that's right, all...I've cut my blanky in half! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?! hee hee. For those of you who know me well, you know I love my blanky, and it's traveled with me for the last nearly 26 years around the world. My dear, wonderful grandmother made this thing for me when i was a lil' babe and I have worn it out. In fact, the little white squares used to have embroidered animals on them. Yeah, sad.

So, when Tom asked me if he could have this while I was gone, you can imagine I had a very difficult time giving in. We made a deal. He'd buy me this cool scarf from Urban (that sorta felt like my blanky) and I'd give him the blanky under one condition - I got to keep it until he came to visit. Hmm. 2 months later and I'm not ready to let go. The creative juices start running. 'What can I do to get out of this?', I thought. And the most logical answer I arrived at was to cut the blanked in half and give him the other half. Compromise. And that, my friends, is what our relationship is all about. It may not seem like a big deal...but if you have a blanky you know what it is like to part with it.

But for this guy, I'll make sacrifices. Big, blanky-cutting-in-half sacrifices. :) hee.

do a good deed for someone today,


MHTV#8 - from the office...

This one's a bit dated...I shot it last week, but I wanted to get it up here anyway. I know I still owe you guys some pics and info about my new job, so here is at least a start. This is where I work...isn't it a gorgeous building? This is actually the Czech Inn, one of our three wonderful properties. The central office of the three hostels (Sir Toby's and Miss Sophie's are the other two), which is also known as the "Hub" is located on the third floor of this building. I'll have to add a pic of my view as well. It's gorgeous. Much better than sitting in the middle of an old Polaris warehouse (sorry Carlson friends, it's true:)). I am truly blessed.

Along with this snap, I also took some video when I was working last weekend in the office. Enjoy, and more to come!!

MHTV#8 - a message from the office from megan harrod on Vimeo.

love you all and wishing you sunny days...and stays (in our hostels when you come to visit:)),


Friday, March 6, 2009

i heart the videos in the metro

strange but uber cool vids from the metro from megan harrod on Vimeo.

random and sweet metro vid #dva from megan harrod on Vimeo.

these make me giggle when i am down. so silly. love it.


p.s. missin' my favorite one (which includes a couple of kids sitting in the metro, not giving up their seats for an old granny...then the metro starts going really fast and the old granny is swinging perpendicular to the rail. ha ha!)-don't worry, i'll add it later...

MHTV#7 - a lil' praha update and birthday shout-out to the ladies i love!

MHTV#7 (i reckon) - a praha update and birthday shout-outs to the ladies! from megan harrod on Vimeo.

love, hugs, smiles and nameste,


Monday, March 2, 2009

the grass IS greener on the other side...there may just be a bit more poop in it...

(if/when i write a book, know that this is in the running for title - don't steal my idea, pretty please)

Before I begin, I would like to say two things:

1) please excuse my somewhat down-in-the-dumps tone...it is not entirely indicative of my feelings towards me being here, but it is real and I'm all about being real with you.
-and -
2) I forgot what I was going to say (really, I did...I left the room to cook a chicken breast and some manky-looking cheesy-broccoli-noodly-thing and now have forgotten what my 2nd - and very important - point is.).

Ahhh, yes, the title of the blog - why the title, "the grass IS greener on the other side...there just may be a bit more poop in it"? You may ask? Well, my lovely former boss (that's right, Stace - I called you "boss") constantly told me, "the grass isn't greener, gal" and I'd respond rather matter-of-factly, "the grass may be a different shade of green, but it is still green:)." And, I've really confirmed that she was indeed wrong, as the grass has to be greener here...it's simply not as freaking cold as it is in Minni. ha. Another qualifying blog title statement - as I have mentioned before, Czech people love their dogs...and their dogs love to poop on the sidewalk...and then the dog owners don't love to pick it up. And then I accidentally step in it, and then I find myself standing in tree pose, and as a result, getting dog poop on my jeans. Which, I do not love. Yes, sadly...it's happened once.

Life is fascinating here. Really. But, it is much more fascinatingly different than I could have imagined. I mean, I knew I was coming to a drastically different place, and was at least well-prepped for the translation, thanks to all of the good nuggets of info from my brother, but I've learned that it is really just not possible to prep for a move abroad. Life is different in many ways. For this reason, it is so fitting that I have decided to entitle this blog, "zmena" (which was also one of the first czech words I learned). Let me just give you a lil' snippet into the amount of change...okay, so people think it is a big change starting a new job. Add to this, a new company, a small office environment vs. large office, new people and personalities, new industry...all in a new country with a new - and very different - language, well...I think this pretty much speaks for itself.

What's even crazier, is that I am not alone here - I am surrounded by expats who have done the same thing as me, so this is what I perceive as normal. But it is far from normal, friends. I am not asking for sympathy (although packages are always great:)...thanks to Bets and Lex for sending such an awesome lil' gift, as well as Stace and co. from the office - unreal! loved it!), but I merely want to relay to you exactly how much change an expat goes through. And, that's just the start. Here, 65-year-old women have magenta colored streaks in their hair, it's not uncommon to see men and boys peeing in public and every once in a while you may catch someone snorting coke off of a dirty park bench. Un-freaking-real, but oh-so-real, because I've seen it. Oh, and the other day we saw a random fight break loose literally out in front of Czech Inn. Here's how it unraveled...guy in big truck takes up entire width of cobblestone street in front of the hostel. Guys in car behind big truck man gets pissed (angry, not drunk). So, guys in car yell at guy in big truck. In fact, guy in big truck must have hit someone's car too...maybe he backed into guys in car - not positive how it all played out. But, it was not good, because the three guys in car got out and started beating guy in truck. Literally...no joke...true, bonafide beating. I was appalled, and freaking out...of course yelling "call the police" (as if having the police there really would have made a difference), blah, blah, blah. ha ha. I mean, it's totally safe here and I even run at night - but poop like this happens often (I am learning).

I made this change with a goal of gaining experience in all aspects of life, and gaining experience is what I am doing. I have met many, many wonderful people who have been overwhelmingly welcoming from the start. However, I am finding that God is testing my patience once again...as an important lesson I am learning at the moment is really good, solid friendships take time. The last time I was in a situation like this, where I was truly uncomfortable/everything was new was back in first year of college. Phew...that was nearly 6 years ago. Crazy. So, it's all new and different and I am learning how to cope and move forward.

I just opened a book that my bro gave me for Christmas, entitled, "Pink Tanks and Velvet Hangovers: An American in Prague." And, it totally resonates with me and rocks madly. I've only just started to read it (I was holding off as I searched for Twilight, "New Moon", but was unsuccessful so I decided I might as well dive into one I had already, even though it would surely be missing some very important vampire characters. ha. tangent.), but I already love it. The premise of the book is that this American guy falls in love with a Czech gal and decided to move to Czechoslovakia less than six months after the fall of Communism.

Lost in thought, saturated with feelings of uncertainty as his taxi enters the city for the first time, Douglas Lytle opens his eyes wider as the castle comes into view. As he writes (in regards to his first interaction with Hradcany), "From that moment on, regardless of how depressed I ever became, however homesick or how bad a day I might have had, a stroll along the Vltava with its view of the mighty Castle never failed to lift my spirits." It is so very true. Now all I have to do is escape to the bridge every once in a while...feel the essence of Prague envelop me.

I have learned that I need to put everything into perspective. It is very difficult to be away from home, family, loved ones...all things familiar - but, at the same time, it is so very exciting and to be in a new place (even with that extremely sick feeling in my stomach and the end of the honeymoon period and beginning of the "oh crap, I'm REALLY going to be here for 2 years" reality stage). It's all good, though. I mean, it will be all good, with time.

Czech lessons started the other day. A few words to sum it all up - "I have no idea what's going on." This language is freaky-hard, I'm telling ya. Ja jsem unavena holka. Which means, I am a tired girl. I think studying Czech makes me tired. I do know my trusty numbers, though. However, there are sounds my mouth cannot even begin to sound out. Number four, for instance, is the most heinous sound that has ever come out of my mouth...čytři - the "č" makes a "ch" sound and the "ř" makes a "rzssh" sound (rolled r with zssh sound). Which pretty much means, for an American, these sounds together do not roll of the tongue smoothly. I sound challenged. But, I am learning - 'slow and steady wins the race' is my czech lesson motto. Stay tuned for more czech adventures - I may even video myself speaking so you can hear how incredibly silly I sound:).

This morning I walked outside and the sun was shining. When the sun shines, this magical city sparkles...but it's been so grey lately - which I think has had an effect on my mood. At least in Minni when in the depths of winter we have sunny days, with cool crisp air...and the beauty of the snow sparkling from the sun's raise is captivating. But I am learning to embrace even the grey days...for another, equally magical side of the city shows its face. I guess when it is grey and the people are frowning (no one looks happy here in the winter...very few friendly interactions are exchanged with strangers), the city has a more mystical, mysterious feeling. But, at the same time, on these grey days I can't help thinking of the remnants left from the communist regime...which has given the city a skeptical-edge. I even heard the birds singing today - a beautiful harbinger of Spring!

So, this means warm and sunny weather is coming...it means that things will gradually get better and transition will become a thing of the past and my life here will seem more natural. It will take time and patience...something which I am still trying to learn. So, Spring will be my catalyst as I dive into the reality of living in and fully embracing life here.

But, unfortunately, it doesn't mean the poop will disappear. There will always be poop.

wishing you poop-free walks,