Frank and Lissette are BBQBoy and Spanky, otherwise known as “Canada’s favorite Interracial Couple”. Born outside Quebec City, Frank spent most of his childhood travelling between Africa, Vancouver, and Ottawa before settling in Montreal. Lissette is from New York, of Puerto Rican descent. She followed her dreams – and her career – to Montreal. Together since 2005, they’ve travelled extensively through Asia, Europe, and Central and South America. In July 2014 they pursued their dream of long-term travel on the road. Please enjoy this week-in-the-life of BBQboy and Spanky, living and working in their first stop; Prague.
Day 1: Friday
It’s our favorite day of the week in our home away from home.
10:30 am – yes, we wake up late. But that has to do with us working regular 9-5 work hours in Canada…while in Europe. So finishing work at 10 PM local time in Prague, means a late supper while usually watching our favorite series on Netflix (which we now have access to thanks to a reader tipping us off about Hola). On this particular Friday morning we’re out of bed at 10:30. Coffee on the sofa, the sun streaming in, we catch up on news by watching ‘The National’ on CBC. We make breakfast while listening to live news on Al Jazeera.
2:00 pm – 8am back in Montreal. We start our workday, logging into our computers and going through emails. We have three laptops in all, working remotely often means not being able to access a printer. It sometimes looks like the NASA command center here in our little apartment.
6:00 pm – Quitting time! On Fridays Lissette (Spanky) finishes at noon in Montreal, that’s 6pm here. That’s why Friday is our favorite day of the week.
6:30 pm – We’re on Prague’s metro, heading to the Old Town. We celebrate the end of every week with a walk. Today it is a stroll across the Charles Bridge and up the the Castle district. We sit down at an outdoor restaurant, having a couple of beers and supper while enjoying the people-watching. Few cities are as beautiful as Prague in the early evening. The setting light brings out the best of Prague’s features; the red roofs, the light pastel colors of the buildings, the golden spires of its cathedrals.
Day 2: Saturday
11:30 am – We are on the bus, heading to a town called Český Krumlov. It is the Czech Republic’s 2nd most visited site (after Prague), a fairytale town famous for its castle.
1:30 pm – We’ve wandered all over Český Krumlov looking for our hotel. The town’s tourist information center gave us a map and, after googling it, indicated the location of the hotel for us. It turned out to be wrong. When we finally find the hotel we inform the manager who advises us that he’s been fighting both the Tourist Information Center and Google over the supposed location of his hotel. Technology is great but yes, even Google makes mistakes.
3:00 pm – Český Krumlov is a gorgeous town. We sit at a restaurant on the river, the castle looming in front of us. A parade of Czechs on canoes and rubber dinghies pass by, happy and yelling ‘Ahoy’ (an informal greeting here) to passersby.
8:00 pm – We’ve spent the day walking the town and are exhausted. We walk the 15 minutes back to our hotel, bringing some beer and bread/cheese/tomatoes home with us. We have a picnic on the bed watching Netflix (we’ve been watching “The Killing”) before falling asleep.
Day 3: Sunday
10:00 am – We’ve made friends with the hotel owner over breakfast. He’s British, an ex-executive with Nortel Networks (which many Canadians are familiar with, especially those that lost a lot of money when they went bankrupt). Peter is married to a Czech lady who radiates warmth. Unfortunately Peter is battling cancer and is looking to sell the hotel. I feel sadness for him. It also makes me recognize how fortunate we are to be healthy (knock on wood) and travelling the world.
3:00 pm – A day spent exploring Český Krumlov castle, including a climb up the tower for some incredible views. If there is a downside to Český Krumlov it is the hordes of tourists trampling through the streets. The town seems particularly popular among Japanese and Chinese tourists and we reflect on how the demographics of tourism have changed over the last 10 years.
8:00 pm – We celebrate our last night in a typical Czech restaurant. I eat a plate of pork and dumplings while Lissette has the only ‘vegetarian’ dish available – fried cheese served with french fries. The Czech Republic is definitely not the most vegetarian-friendly country on the planet.
Day 4: Monday
10:00 am – We are on the bus on our way back to Prague, when we suddenly stop on the side of the road. Two policemen board and make their way to the back of the bus. Maybe they’re looking for someone? We are soon being asked for identification. I had, at the last minute, thought to bring photocopies of our passports with us on this short trip. I hand them over. The younger policeman looks through them and calls over the more senior officer. They talk amongst themselves and ask me for original documents. I say that they are back in Prague. They speak some more and hand the copies back. The junior officer tells us that originals are required but doesn’t push the issue. I later read that police in the Czech Republic have the power to demand original identification from tourists and can fine you up to $150 if you don’t have it. We got lucky.
4:00 pm – Back in our Prague apartment, having a beer and doing our laundry. It’s raining hard outside and we are happy to be home. Because of our trip, we’re taking a long weekend and don’t have to check in with work. I do however have a job; get a dentist for Lissette. Before leaving Canada she had dental implants screwed in. Over the weekend something started to get loose.
8:00 pm – Pasta and wine while watching the next episode of ‘The Killing’. Lissette is nervous about her tooth and we relieve some of the stress we had prior to leaving Canada. For six months Lissette had to deal with implants, bridges, and a root canal, all because of the shoddy work of a previous dentist. At times she’s actually felt depressed. She’s getting paranoid that one of her implants hasn’t taken.
Day 5: Tuesday
11:30 am – My email to a local dentist was answered earlier this morning and we are making our way, on the metro, to a clinic on the other side of the city.
12:30 pm – A successful visit to the dentist! An interesting experience as well. The dentist is a young guy who looks like he is right out of GQ magazine; prim and proper, brown hair stylishly combed to one side. His assistants look like models, all gorgeous. A blonde beauty, wearing tight white pants with a baby blue shirt, greets Lissette and guides her to a sparkling-clean operating room. 30 minutes later everything is done. The crown had simply come loose off the base of the implant. They had drill through the crown, tighten the screw, fill it back up. Lissette comes out of the operating room all smiles. The cost? $48. How easy would it had been in Canada to find a dentist and, that same day, have your problem fixed? We have a prejudice as North Americans that our service is the best in the world and that service anywhere else won’t compare. This is the first example (and we’ve had a few more since) that service overseas can be as good or better than what we have back home.
2:00 pm – Time to work. It’s funny how working from a distance changes your relationships with co-workers. You can work with people for 15 years and you figure the relationships will continue as they always have, no matter the physical distance. But then you leave and people surprise you. People you’ve had close relationships suddenly drop out. You’ll get a work email but it’s otherwise silence. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. Other people, who you maybe had fractious relationships with in the past, suddenly become best friends from a distance. Isn’t it funny how that happens? We’re two months into our lives overseas and it’s really the weirdest adjustment that we’ve gone through.
10:00 pm – We always celebrate the end of work with a beer. Another day, another dollar. Supper is a stir-fry. We’re off to Bangkok a month from now and can’t wait for all those crazy noodle and rice stir-frys.
Day 6: Wednesday
11:00 am – We are almost always active in the morning. Today is a beautiful day and we decided to go downtown and climb one of Prague’s many towers. In fact, you can buy a ticket which covers five of the city’s best towers. Today we climb the Powder Tower, which borders the New Town and Old Town. What is unique about this tower is that the highlights of Prague open up in front of you: the buildings and churches of the Old Town, the Charles Bridge tower in the background. Yet further is the Lesser Town, Prague Castle, and the Petrin Lookout. Prague is a fantastically beautiful city and we’re loving it more with every passing day.
10:00 pm – The end of another day. Tonight we have chili and a bottle of Shiraz ($4 at the local grocery store) while watching another episode of ‘The Killing’.
Day 7: Thursday
10:00 am – We are at the shopping center close to our suburban apartment, having a coffee at the café. No tourists here. The place is called the Krakov Mall but Lissette started calling it the “Crack House Mall” early during our stay. Now I can’t shake calling it the Crack House Mall. It’s actually a beautiful mall, almost startlingly so in contrast to the huge Soviet-style housing units in the area. When we first arrived here we were almost intimidated because of the language factor. Now it’s routine and we’ve made friends along the way. There’s a nice teller at the food store who greets us with “Spaghetti!” (she thinks we’re Italian). The dour girl at the café has actually started smiling at us the last few times we’ve come in.
Today we make friends with a young girl in the Sporting Goods Store who seems eager to practice her English. Czechs have a reputation as unfriendly – a book we recently read, written by a Czech describes it as “a constant state of fed-upness”. And it can be true, we’ve had some of those experiences. But we’ve also had, with time, some excellent and interesting interactions with friendly Czechs. So yes, stereotypes can generally be correct but there are many exceptions to the rule and how you treat others is often the way you yourself will be treated. Nowhere is this more true than outside the tourist circles.
2:00 pm – Back at our desks for work. But I’m also planning our upcoming trips. The town of Kutná Hora this weekend. A visit to Dresden the next. Our stay in the Czech Republic (and Europe) is winding down. I’ve been researching flights for a week; today we take the plunge and book our flights to Bangkok.
10:00 pm – The end of work, a beer, and some takeaway Indian food. We’re nearing the end of our work week. Tomorrow we are back to our favourite day of the week; Friday. Today also marks the end of another week in our life.
Frank and Lissette recently fell in love with the town of Nong Khai, on the Mekong river in Thailand. They’ll stay there through March (while visiting other sites in South East Asia) before heading back to Europe. Read their interesting cultural experiences (and check out their great photos) on www.bbqboy.net.