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April 19, 2005



Czech construction methods are different than in the US.
In the US, the basic method is to frame walls with wood,
then cover them with sheets of fireproof wallboard. Pipes,
wiring, and insulation are sandwiched inside. Here, brick
is the material of choice. Channels are chiselled into
the stone, pipes and wires laid in, and then the
whole thing is plastered over. It's built to last
centuries, but makes subsequent renovations
dusty, difficult, and timeconsuming. Even
non-loadbearing interior walls are built of
6-inch wide brick. The structural exterior
walls of my house are 18 inches thick.
Zednik is the word for bricklayer, or,
more literally, wallmaker. Mr. Horvat
and his family did most of the brick
work in the house. He is an excellent
zednik. Despite his skill, hard work,
and low rates he often goes months
without jobs. He and his family are
Romany, or Gypsies, and as such face
a lot of discrimination in Czech society.
I guess I am prejudiced, too. Before speaking
at length with him, I considered Czechs to be
more open-minded and civilized than most
other people. After all, one would
think a country that is 75% atheist
would be comprised of individuals
who think for themselves and judge
matters on a case by case basis. But
now I see that racism and xenophobia
are quite common here. Disillusionment.

A funny thing happened when Mirek and
I were invited to dinner at the Horvat home.
It is a Czech custom to remove one's shoes
when entering a house. Most hosts provide
slippers for their guests. I took off my shoes
and put on some sandals left by the door. As
we were leaving, Mirek couldn't find his shoes.
That's because I was wearing them. Ha, ha! Ha!

              (I guess you had to be there....)