Today's Mailbox includes Topics: Radio Prague listeners' competition. Secondary school leaving exams. Weddings. Compulsory vaccination of children. Listeners mentioned and quoted: James Robinsky, Alice Norting, Margaret Brenner, Alan Pennington, Michael Stevenson, Kevin

Welcome to our first Mailbox in June, which is just another way of reminding you that the month that sees the end of this year's Radio Prague competition has started, and you have only two weeks in which to get your entry to our address, here at Radio Prague.

If you haven't done so already, that is. A number of listeners have already answered our question - What comes to your mind when you hear the word Prague. And reading them makes me realise that choosing the winner will be anything but easy.

Listeners write about their personal experiences - those of them, who have visited Prague, that is, or they write about the role Radio Prague has played in their coming to know about the Czech capital, others write about cultural, historic and other connections between their country and the Czech Republic - it's the diversity that is going to make the task of choosing the winner a real problem.

We do want to be fair, after all, the main prize is well worth it - a one week visit to Prague for two sponsored by the Prague Breweries - Staropramen, makers of Prague's favourite beer.

And of course, free return air plane tickets to Prague, thanks to Czech Airlines - and the flight will give the winner a chance to test the airline's motto: At home in the skies.

There will be a number of runner up prizes all of which we have already talked about. Right now just a reminder that the deadline, June 16th is drawing near.

Yes, June has come somewhat fast this year, I don't know why I have that feeling, maybe it's because it's such an important month for numerous reasons. First of all, it's graduation time for secondary school students.

Which answers a question sent by James Robinsky of Montreal, Canada:

"My grandfather used to tell us about an examination he took at high school called Maturita. Does that have anything to do with the word mature?"

Yes, it does. Maturita means that the student is now grown up, he has successfully finished secondary school, or rather, originally, 8 years of grammar school. Nowadays it doesn't have the significance it used to have, at a time when very few students went to grammar school and were considered really well educated, which included mastering Latin, among other subjects. The exam dates back to 1849 and even though it has kept its name, it has changed considerably in the one and a half century since the first students sat for it.

Nowadays Maturita consists of two parts, first there are the written exams, usually in two subjects - Czech and another subject, depending on the type of school. And then, usually in June, there is an oral exam in four subjects, again depending on the type of school, because nowadays the Maturita exam is not only for grammar school leavers, but for all secondary school graduates.

Some 40% of all Czechs have passed the examination and this year nearly 80 000 secondary school leavers are sitting for their Maturita exams. Passing them means that they can go on to university, if they pass the in coming exams there, or that, at least, that they are mature.

And can get married, if they choose. Of course, the exam isn't a pre-condition for that, but not many people do get married before finishing school.

Actually, not many seem to marry even after finishing school, people are putting off getting married more and more, and there seem to be fewer and fewer weddings.

Before we start off on that topic, here is a question from Alice Norting from Seattle, Washington, USA, which deals with the topic of marriage

"Most weddings in our country seem to be in the Spring, especially in June. Is that typical for Czechs, too?"

I haven't looked into any statistics, but I'd say it's pretty much the same, June is the month for weddings. Not May, mind you. There is a superstition that May is an unlucky month to get married, so most spring weddings do take place in June, even though this year was a bit different. This being the year 2002, with the two twos, there was a stampede to book wedding halls and churches on the two magic days with all the twos in them, the 2nd and the 22nd of February.

All that interest in weddings was a pleasant change in the general trend of the past years. As you've said, the number of weddings is dropping from year to year and in 2001 fewer people got married than any other year since the end of the First World War. Marriage isn't considered all that important nowadays and more and more couples are living together without being married.

On the other hand, divorces are getting more and more common. Over 31 000 couples were divorced in the Czech Republic last year, 4 000 of them in Prague alone.

But there were nearly 7 000 weddings in Prague, which isn't that bad. Throughout the country the average is five weddings to 1 000 inhabitants, which is just about the European standard.

Here is one more question related, in a way, with weddings. It's from Margaret Brenner, Melbourne, Australia:

"I'm a paediatric nurse with a special interest in preventive medicine. Could you tell me whether child vaccination is compulsory in the Czech Republic?"

Yes, it is, and has been for many years and with very good results. In this respect we are one of the leading countries in Europe. Between 95 to 98 percent of Czech children are vaccinated against such diseases as tuberculosis, polio`, small pox, etc. Experts say that every year some 500 children's lives are saved by vaccination.

There hasn't been a single case of polio in this country for 42 years, no diphtheria in 7 years, and only 107 children came down with the mumps last year, compared to 60 000 in 1960.

Whooping cough is another example: 60 000 cases in 1950 and only 124 last year. We could go on, there are many examples to prove the success of our vaccination scheme.

So much, then, about some aspects of family life in the Czech Republic. Did you notice that it's our women listeners who ask these questions. When we come to short wave listening as such, as a hobby, it seems that it's predominantly a male issue.

It seems that men are more technically minded, or that they have more time to stick to the hobby of short wave listening. We have any number of letters and e-mails to prove that. Alan Pennington e-mails from Caversham, Reading in the United Kingdom

"I first listened to Radio Prague back in 1974 when still a young school boy and although many things have changed in the 25 years since then, I am glad to hear Radio Prague still on the airwaves."

Obviously getting to know foreign countries and distant places is one of the main attractions of DX-ing and maybe collecting QSL cards is one of the reasons why many listeners keep up the hobby. Michael Stevenson from New South Wales, Australia is one of the many listeners who have written to tell us how much they like this year's Radio Prague QSL cards showing 8 of the UNESCO protected historic sites in the Czech Republic, and he writes:

"A lot of the old Radio Prague QSL cards from the 1970's that I have in my collection showed a lot of different places in the Czech Republic as well, although they were only in black and white. This new series of QSL cards are very beautifully done in full colour, very well done!"

Collecting QSL cards is obviously an interesting hobby, but there are many other reasons for listening to short wave radio, as one of our listeners, who signs himself Kevin, proves.

" I am an American living in the US and have a partner living in Prague and we are working on a solution to this separation. Finding this site has provided me with a connection to her. I thank you for providing coverage that obviously was not there 15 years ago. I am grateful to hear that the Czech Republic is paying such attention to humanitarian ideals, ecology, and awareness of the world as it is. May you have continued success."

Thank you, Kevin, and may you be successful, too. We're glad Radio Prague is of some help to you in solving your problems.

So, do let us know, why you listen to Radio Prague and how you like it. And if you have any question you'd like answered in Mailbox.

Authors: Dita Asiedu , Olga Szantová
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