Sunday, January 5, 2014



Issue II, October-December 2013, Prague, Czech Republic

My dearest kababayans,

I am too little now to understand what has happened to my native city. I have to wait until I grow into an age when I am ready to grasp the tragedy of Tacloban. I will certainly be saddened by the loss of life and disappearance of most of the city, in which I was born two and a half years ago. I will thank God for sparing you and I will thank the Reception and Study Center for Children's staff for evacuating you in time to a safe place. 

I will most likely not see you again. At least not in the RSCC where I spent over a year of my life. 

You are said to have been moved to Manila. No one knows at this point when you will be back in Tacloban. Maybe never. Maybe you will be soon matched with adoptive families and leave your homeland for good. Like I did more than six months ago. 

Meanwhile, my life in my not-so-new homeland has been going on typhoon-free and in a less turbulent way than yours have. 

However, I have gone through some stormier times myself. Some time ago, coincidentally when the typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, I had big sleeping problems. Not only during the day but at night too. It had terrible effects on me and my moods and naturally on the whole family. More in my report below.

My dearest kababayans, wherever you are, I wish you all the best, happy times free of natural disasters and last but not least, happy parents who will love you dearly and unconditionally like my parents love me.

Yours ever,

Rica Vondrova

On sleeping
As mentioned in my editorial, some time ago I had troubles with falling asleep. Despite being very tired, I failed to fall asleep. I would jump all over my mom who would patiently try to calm me down. I would try to talk to her but she would keep singing lullabies and pet me over my head. So I would talk to myself, my fingers or my toys. Sometimes my mom would fall asleep before I would, so I would have to wake her up to remind her I am not sleeping yet.  

Well, you see, life is so interesting, why should I sleep it over, di ba? And yet, I do have to take a lunch nap, mom says, because I would get unbearably restless in the afternoon and would not enjoy life as much. 

During the day mom (or sometimes dad) would put me in a stroller and go for a walk outside. Only then I fell asleep. In the evening it was somewhat impossible.Besides, who wants to stroll late at night when it is dark and cold. Especially now when the temperatures dropped below zero, right?

Luckily, the big troubles with sleeping are gone. I wouldn’t call myself a sleeping enthusiast but I am more easily convinced now to go to bed and actually lie down and try to close my eyes and sleep. Watching a good night story on TV sometimes helps (see the picture - together with my grandma). Sometimes it doesn't. It is still very unpredictable with me, I must admit. 

Sit down, mámo, sit down táto
As for learning Czech, I am extending my vocabulary day by day. As said in my last report – it is a very difficult language and I don’t envy any foreigner who attempts to learn it.  

Some things confuse me, like the word stolička (at first I learned it means a stool/little chair and now I found out it also means a jaw tooth).

Then some words are extremely long. Compare socks in English and ponožky in Czech. Or sun and sluníčko. Or red and červená. Etcetera.

But I enjoy learning new long words. It is fun and it seems mom and dad enjoy it too. They almost always laugh when I try to use them. For example, the word konvalinka (lily of the valley). I can hardly pronounce it but I won’t get discouraged. I keep coming to mom and tell her proudly – kodadinka! She compliments me for trying hard. Sometimes she laughs and I laugh with her.

Despite learning new words almost every day, I retain some of the English or Tagalog/Waray words or my own mix:

Mainom – to drink
Baboy – pig
Ulan - rain
Init - hot
Sit down (my favorite phrase is Sit down, mámo, sit down, táto. I use it so often, mom and dad often sing it as a made-up song in the James Brown fashion.)
Up - much easier to say up than Stoupni si, don't you think?
Deida - meaning lie down

On visiting zoo and riding a fox’s tail
Among the highlights in the fall was visiting the Prague zoo. I was amazed by the size of some animals. Knowing them from books doesn’t give you the proper proportion or size they actually happen to have. I am talking about elephants, giraffes or even zebras. There were also penguins, seals, turtles and flamingoes.

I was most amazed by gorillas, though. I stood there fascinated by the mama gorilla and papa gorilla and their babies, cuddling and hugging just like me and mom and dad do. I didn’t want to leave the place, I tell you.

Apart from animals, I still like food and music. A true Filipina, my parents say. There are karaokes all over the Philippines, you see and the first question you are often asked in my homeland is not How are you? but Have you eaten? In other words, food is always on Filipinos' mind and so is on mine.

As for my passion for music, I have discovered another song by my favorite duo Svěrák – Uhlíř (something like Lennon – McCartney in the world of Czech kids' music) – a mini-opera called Budulínek. I can hardly pronounce the word (try it for yourself boo-doo-lee-neck) but I just cannot get enough of it. Well, just ask my parents. They will tell you how many times I can listen to this piece during the day. I cannot even count that high.

At one point a fox is carrying Budulínek, a little naughty boy, on its tail. I guess that is the best thing about the whole piece – I would like to take a ride on the fox’s tail myself! Or I would like to become the fox and haunt little boys. Mom makes me a little tail out of my scarf and I pretend to be the fox and mom or dad are Budulínek running away from me pretending to be scared.

St. Nicolas Day and my first Christmas
Czechs have this funny tradition called Mikuláš, which translates as St. Nicolas Day. A group of mostly three persons - devil, angel and St. Nicolas roam around the town or households and ask kids if they behaved in the past year.
Those who have are rewarded with sweets and candy; those who have not are put in the devil’s sack and taken to hell or given only a sack of potatoes or coal.

I got plenty of chocolate and candy, so I must have been good. But boy, I was scared to death, I must tell you, not really of the devil but of the angels who mostly had strange (blue) hair and St. Nicolas who had big white beard and a huge cap. 

I could hardly have a look at them when they tried to talk to me (see the picture on the left). I was holding onto my mom and dad so tightly, they could hardly breathe. The chocolate tasted good, though.

On that day I learned a new word - dárek (gift). When Ježíšek (something like Santa) came weeks later and gave me dárek, I was a bit disappointed it wasn’t chocolate. I thought up until then all dáreks are always chocolate. 

Well, they aren’t. I don’t fully get the concept of gift giving yet but I like all the toys and books I got. The best thing about Christmas, though, is the decorated tree – it almost always has chocolates on! 

On singing Christmas carols and meeting Santa and Pinoys
A group of Filipinos living in the Czech Republic organized a Christmas kiddies’ party for all those who love the Philippines. There were many Filipino-Czech kids, plenty of gifts and food and music and of course, there was Santa. 

I was a bit scared of this big guy dressed in red having a strange white beard. My grandma had to hold me in her arms the whole time when we approached him to get a present. Slowly, I warmed up. I was pleased to get more chocolate and eat great Filipino food the Pinoy expats prepared themselves. I was so energized by all the pancit and adobo, I didn’t want to leave the dance floor later on. (See the video here.)

A day before the Christmas Day mom and dad took me to the Charles Bridge where a choir and musicians played a famous Czech Christmas mass by Jakub Jan Ryba. It is commonly known as Rybovka. I sat on my dad’s shoulders and listened fascinated by all the singing and instrument playing.

On the last day of the year 2013 mom took me to a small church nearby our house. There was the New Year’s Eve mass. At one point the priest came up to us to give me blessings but I screamed right into his face: I don't want any angel! I amused everyone present at the mass. He did look like an angel, though, dressed in a long white robe. A wingless angel, though. 

I was fascinated by the music again - organ and male choir. I refused to leave, shouting No bye bye, mom! No going home! The priest seemed to be pleased with me again.

Then there was the last night of the year of 2013. Mom and dad stayed home and had a quiet evening. I slept like a baby, a real baby and no fireworks could wake me up. I was all joyful and full of laughs the next day. I hope the whole year of 2014 will be like that. 

That is what I wish to you all too – joy and lots of laughing moments.Until next time.

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