We visited The Czech Republic to see Lenka, our third au pair. She lived with us when Seven was about one, Eight was not yet three and World Trip Girl was about five.
Lenka is an actress and YouTube personality (though she also wrote a script and makes beautify drawings and photos). You can see some of her work here. She was already interested in film and acting before coming to the USA, but decided to pursue it as a career while she was living with us. I remember a walk together behind a double stroller when Lenka shared: “if I don’t at least try [to be an actress], I will not forgive myself” and “being young, I have nothing to loose”. Five years later she is as determined as ever. “I don’t need to be famous, as long as I can make a living as an actress.” I am happy that she found her passion so early in life (I am still looking after age forty) and proud that she is pursuing it so fearlessly.
After her time with us Lenka worked for a while in Los Angeles and then in London, but she is now back in the Czech Republic. She leads an interesting double life: part of her world is the physical realm of her “survival job” and auditions in Prague, but she spends equal amounts of time in the digital realm where she has an acting coach, acting friends and takes free university classes on Coursera. With her online, international friends, she is working on a project in London and is planning to move back to Los Angeles eventually. In her physical world she is finding learning moments in her “survival jobs”. She told me long ago: “Taking care of children, is not so different from acting. If you are cheerful and put on a happy face, kids will go mirror you and be happy too.” Nowadays Lenka works in a bank: “I am learning to run my own finances.” Lenka is certainly living a life full of ‘Experiences, Not Stuff’ and is a great role model for my children.
The Potty of the Czech Republic
Lenka came to see us in Prague for a couple of days. Within thirty minutes of her arrival the kids were doing a movie project, which Liv describes on her blog here (maybe we will post the movie at some point too).
We also took a local bus to visit Lenka and her family in her home town of Jablonec nad Nisou. The town with the population of about 45,000 people is a popular winter resort in the Jizera Mountains, the center of active and extreme sports and a producer of jewelry and glass. The name of the town can be translated as “the apple-tree place”. “But,” Lenka added “Czechs also call our town ‘the potty of the Czech Republic’, because it rains all the time.” The day we bussed out of Prague to see Lenka’s roots was no exception. It felt like being in the movie ‘The Truman Show’. We would find shelter from the rain in a museum or warm, local restaurant and the sun would come out. Then, as soon as we set foot out of the door, the sun would disappear as if somebody had flipped a switch and rain resumed. This ritual repeated itself at least three times. Fortunately, we all had a good laugh and couldn’t be bothered by the rain.
The Most Czech Word
I asked Lenka what word is most typically Czech and she choose čecháček: a narrow-minded Czech person. “Unfortunately there are still too many of those”, she said. We experienced some of the proverbial rudeness of Czech shopkeepers, waiters and toilet attendants (who are all overworked and underpaid, working 12-14 hour shifts), but for the most part we also met young Czechs full of plans for the future and embraced life, the world and this crazy tourist family with open arms.
By the way, it turns out the Czech language has hundreds of words which cannot be easily translated into English, including a slew of words to describe different types of foul weather, and a word for [add more]. Eilam adds: “One of the things Lenka told us is that in Czech there are 7 (yes 7) forms of pronouncing someone’s name depending on the context (for example – it is pronounced differently for someone arriving vs. someone departing etc.). Wonderfully odd.” My personal favorite is probably prozvonit: to call a mobile phone only to have it ring once so that the other person would call back, allowing the caller not to spend money on minutes.
We hope to see Lenka again soon, perhaps in California, and will continue to follow this strong, talented and caring person via her YouTube channel!