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Have you ever been to Bla Bla Land? Does it ring a bell?
Text and photo: Valery Senichev
Imagine Bla Bla Land as a great place with inspirational people. It is a volunteer project of the Prague Centre for the Integration of Foreigners (the Czech abbreviation is CIC) aimed at bringing together Czechs and foreigners, sharing ideas, broadening people’s minds, and improving non-native speakers’ knowledge of Czech. The sessions take place every second and fourth Wednesday of the month right after Czech courses.
The CIC’s volunteer program coordinators’ idea was to find a format which would allow the Czech courses participants, volunteers, and Czechs to interact and to meet at one place. They wanted to come up with a fun and interesting way to gather various groups of people who want to discover different cultures, customs, as well as each other. In May 2018 it become possible thanks to Nastassia and Yuliia, two volunteers from Ukraine and Belarus.
Bla Bla Land was created based on personal experiences of the project initiators. Yulia says: “Once I finished a language course, there was a great obstacle: not enough opportunities to speak Czech. That was actually why my friend Nastassia and I decided to contact the coordinator of CIC volunteers. We came up with a few suggestions, including Bla Bla Land – we wanted to discuss interesting topics over a cup of tea or a glass of kvas and we wanted to do it in Czech. This idea of ours was immediately approved and so we gave it a go. Of course, before the first Bla Bla Land we were pretty nervous. But now we look forward to every new session more and more!”
All the participants are always amazed by the pleasant atmosphere of Bla Bla Land. Nastassia confirms it: “It is important for foreigners to be able to practice Czech in an informal atmosphere, without worrying about making mistakes. What I like about Bla Bla Land is that I meet interesting people, I learn new things about various cultures and we can discuss topics that are important for us. The atmosphere of the sessions is always very pleasant and it gives us a lot of energy. I wish we can keep meeting, organising evenings at various places, and inviting guests and experts on diverse topics. It would be great if more Czech people got involved and spread the word about our events. That would help foreigners understand the Czech culture and mentality better and their integration into the Czech society would be easier.”
So far, there have been three Bla Bla Land sessions and each time there were a lot of participants. Yuliia and Nastassia introduced topics which are important and helpful for foreigners. The topics of the three sessions were: Migration: Expectations vs Reality; Traditions and Customs: What to Keep and What to Adopt from Czech Culture; Life in Prague: Where to Go for Culture, Education, and Entertainment. These topics are useful for foreigners and, at the same time, interesting for the Czechs. For Czech participants, Bla Bla Land is a great place for discovering several different cultures at a time with no need to travel far away.
Michaela, a Czech volunteer, shared her experience with Bla Bla Land: “I liked the first session very much, it was a great opportunity to meet interesting people. I was the only Czech girl there and I found it very interesting to see everyday things from the foreigners’ perspective. The session made me realise that I as a native Czech often see things differently than foreigners who are much more positive and appreciative. There was a nice group of people at the event, everyone shared their stories, and it was quite inspirational.”
The CIC volunteers have been planning new sessions. Each time, there will be a different topic. Come to Bla Bla Land every 2nd and 4th Wednesday in a month. You can join a great bunch of people, discuss interesting topic, and maybe find some new friends. We start at 7:40 p.m. on the 3rd floor of Karlínské Spectrum (Karlínské náměstí 7, Prague 8). For detailed information about other events see CIC’s Facebook page.