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Pains, Strains and Author Bar Bills "Good evening barman." ...

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Seems like forever since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the early post-velvet Revolution days, and here we look at what has changed since ol' freedom took over, and what remains the same...

I ran into my friends Hunter and Marek on the tram recently, they'd just come back from laying candles at Narodni trida on Revolution Day.

It was understandably more packed than normal, being the anniversary and all that, so they were being extra cautious, keeping the knapsacks under control. But as they left they realized they had been pick pocketed by perhaps the stealthiest thief.

The total cost; one mobile fone; about $100 cash; and the sense of how far we have come:

1) You don't think things are that bad right now.
2) You have to think twice about throwing away an empty instant coffee jar.
3) You always carry a plastic shopping bag with you "just in case".
4) You start saying he/she is "on the meeting" (instead of "at the" or "in a" meeting).
5) You save table scraps for all the cats living in your courtyard.
6) When crossing the street, you sprint.
7) In winter, you choose your route by determining which icicles are least likely to impale you in the head.
8) You are impressed with the new model Skoda car.
9) You argue with a taxi driver about a fare of 70Kc ($2) to go 2 kilometers in a blizzard.
10) You actually know and CARE whether Sparta won last night.
11) You win a shoving match with an old Babushka for a place in line and you are proud of it.
12) You are pleasantly surprised when there is toilet paper in the WC at work.
13) You notice that Flathead's cell phone is smaller than yours is and you're jealous.
14) Your day seems brighter after seeing that goon's Mercedes broadsided by a pensioner's "Trabant".
15) You're not sure what to do you when the traffic cop only asks you to pay the official fine.
16) You wonder what the tax inspector really wants when she says everything is in order.
17) You give a 10% tip only if the waiter has been really exceptional.
18) You plan your vacation around those times of the year when the hot water is turned off.
19) You are relieved when the guy standing next to you on the tram actually uses a handkerchief.
20) You are envious because your expatriate friend has smaller door keys than you have.
21) You ask for no ice in your drink.
22) You start using the word "no" when you mean "yes".
23) You go mushroom and berry picking out of necessity instead of recreation.
24) You been drinking beer every day.
25) You know what Kafka's favorite color was.
26) You change into backory (slippers) and wash your hands as soon as you walk into your apartment.
27) You take a trip to Dresden and think you've been to heaven.
28) You start thinking of black bread as a good chaser for slivovice.
29) You drink the brine from empty pickle jars.
30) You can read barcodes, and you start shopping for products by their country of production.
31) It doesn't seem strange to pay the cops 500Kc for crossing the double line while making an illegal U-turn, and 800Kc for a micro-waved dish of frozen vegetables at some pretentious restaurant.
32) You know more than 60 Marketas.
33) You give your business card to social acquaintances.
34) You have to check your passport for an arrival-in-Prague date.
35) 'Kolik', 'pivo' and 'dobry' become integral parts of your vocabulary.
36) You've been to Germany at least a dozen times for passport stamps.
37) Cigarette smoke becomes 'tolerable'.
38) You changed apartments 6 times in 6 months.
39) You no longer feel like going to your "home" country.
40) You remember how many kilos you weigh - but forget how many pounds.
41) A gallon of gasoline or milk seems like a foreign concept.
42) You no longer miss the foods you grew up with, and pass them up at foreign-owned supermarkets.
43) You try to pay a traffic fine on the spot and get arrested for attempted bribery.
44) You see a car behind you with flashing lights and think it's some politician.
45) You don't feel guilty about not paying on the tram or metro.
46) You can sleep through a hangover without curtains on your windows.
47) The elevator aroma seems reassuring somehow.
48) You no longer think washing clothes in the bathtub is an inconvenience.
49) You can heat water on the stove and shower with it in less than 10 minutes.
50) You have to take E-S-L lessons before you go home.
51) Your sister writes to you about the best prime rib she's ever had and you can't remember what it looks or tastes like.
52) When you know the Prague Metro better than you know the subway system back home.
53) You start buying Czech toilet paper.
54) You never smile in public when you're alone.
55) You know the official at the metro station/airport/border, post/post, office/railway, station etc., is going to say "Ne", but you argue anyway.
56) When you save tea bags of Yorkshire Tea brought over especially from home to use for a second cup later....
57) When that strange pungent mix of odorous stale sawdust, sweat and grime in the metro makes you feel safe and at home....
58) You are in awe that after 3 days home your shoes are still clean.
59) (For women) When you dress up in your best outfits for work and ride the metro.
60) When the word "salad" ceases for you to have anything to do with lettuce.
61) When mayonnaise becomes your dressing
of choice.
62) When you begin paying attention to peoples' floors and can distinguish the quality of linoleum and/or parquet, and thus determine social status, taste, and income e.g. embezzled, earned, pension, unpaid, etc.).
63) You get excited when the dentist smiles and has all his own teeth.
64) You can spark a debate by asking for a decent Mexican restaurant.
65) You do all your shopping at kiosks.
66) You judge the Czech Republic's chances of getting into the EU by the availability of Planters Cheese Balls.
67) You voluntarily take a stroll in the park, Staropramen beer in hand, on a sub-zero day.
68) You laugh at Czech jokes.
69) You actually get these jokes.
70) You think it's too hot, no matter what season you return in.
71) You specify "no bubbles" when asking for mineral water.
72) Your friends back home have to keep reminding you that the word is "restroom", not "toilet".
73) Back home, you're dumbstruck when a high school or college student waits on you with a smile, reciting a 90 second spiel on the "specials of the day" and displays complete knowledge of the contents of each menu item...
74) You tip very little, even for great service.
75) You are surprised to see that the cooks in a Chinese restaurant are actually Chinese.
76) When you realize that all the above and the other messages here are what you love about The Czech Republic, that you've been here long enough to feel at home and wonder whether you'll ever be able to fit back in the old country...


- Photo by Jeffree Benet

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