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Corey´s Němčičky

I grew up in sunny California, home of sand, surf, and suburban sprawl. Where before 1950, my city didn't exist, and before 1850, only native Americans and a couple Spaniards roamed the hills. Now at 23, I set out for Europe to try to absorb some real, time-tested, traditional culture. To see where my ancestors may have come from, where the American Dream began, and maybe it should have stayed. My name is Corey Gravelle, and I've been help-exchanging, wwoofing, and au-pairing throughout Europe for the past ten months.

Luck of the help-exchange draw found me clanking past empty fields, dusty orchards, and tiny farming communities laden with accents and whatever the accent that looks like a "V" is called, in an old single-car rail bus bound for my new host family. With a few inquires to helpful strangers (with written notes because these pronunciations are still beyond me) I arrived at their cozy farmhouse, to a dog barking in a frenzy as if expressing my own excitement. The Stáveks (father Richard, mother Stanika, four-year-old Živa, and two-year-old Teo) welcomed me in from the late-winter chill for a quick tour and something to eat - hot and homemade happiness. Resting my eyes on that first night, cradled by their surprisingly comfortable library futon, I knew this place was going to be pleasant.

Němčičky, Czech Republic, is the smallest village I've ever lived in. The small cluster of streets could be circled by foot in about an hour. But beyond the small and intimate farmhouses lie rolling hills of life: forests for fires, fields for food, and vineyards for joy. Behind nearly all close-knit brick or block house is an ancient wine cellar, where generations have spent many a cold winter's evening experimenting and sampling some of the best wine I've ever tasted. Wine is life here, the well-enjoyed grand celebration of days spent trimming vines and years spent aging in underground hybernation. Stroll with your nose aware, and you can catch a gust of the neighbors' fermenting fruits. I was an eager participant in the annual vine-trimming competition, and the weekly evening
tasting in one of the 300-year-old cellars. Weekends brought yet more surprises from surrounding villages, including one amazing performance by a classic show tunes band (Havelkovic MELODY MAKERS - pozn. RS), a pleasant day trip to Olomouc, an international mountain film festival, and a masquerade ball.

I've reconsidered the definition of 'work' while helping at their goat farm and vineyard. Enjoying an expansive view of Moravia while practicing newly established vine trimming skills, to the soundtrack of some iPod Smetana, it's difficult to stifle an ear-to-ear grin. Sure beats the cubicle life. During my three-week stay, the work days were spent mostly feeding the goats and rabbits, trimming vines, gathering firewood, and watching the kids (human and goat alike). As a recent college graduate in the electrical engineering field, I had not thought to spend so much time in an actual field. But with the sun shining or snow gently falling, a new foreign friend or two, and an orchard or vineyard ahead to groom, it is easy to get lost in a blissful busy hypnosis. I think the movement towards sustainable foods, methods, products, etc, and away from a capital-hungry yet mostly unhappy desk life, is an important and growing shift in the status quo. Helping here and elsewhere has shown me that living a simple and low-cost life can bring its unique pleasures; that moving from the high-cost, high-speed lifestyle so popular in the US is not only possible, but rewarding.

The Stáveks opened their home and hearts to me, and with the children and dog, sometimes drippy nose and slobbery mouth as well. I'll remember with fondness cousin Vendy's quiet kindness, Živa's cuteness, Teo's playfulness, Stani's humor, Richard's passion. But most of all, I will remember their traditional family dynamic that retains the things that really matter, and lifestyle that shines in its simplicity. Their hospitality and compassion makes it difficult to think of leaving, though I've only three days left until the train to my next mystery village. Hopefully it will be but half as memorable and homey as here, for even that would make any work worth while.

phew ! aaaand its bed time

gnite :D

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