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Virtual Road Trip

Internet road trip

Czech journalists tour America for hospitalized kids

September 23, 1997
Web posted at: 11:37 a.m. EDT (1537 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- For some, travel is a way of life. For others, it's a dream -- one that may or may not come true.

For patients at the Motole Hospital children's cancer unit in Prague, Czech Republic, it's a virtual reality.

Over the next few weeks, three journalists, a techie and a former Motole patient will travel around the United States -- reporting back diligently via the Internet to youngsters halfway around the globe.

The trip is the brainchild of project manager Ales Kysela, a journalist with AIK Press in Prague.

The Internet Automobile

"I was thinking about the possibility of telling people in our country about the Internet's good side," he says. When Dr. Josef Koutesky at Motole endorsed the idea, the project became more than a public relations trip for the World Wide Web.

With Microsoft supplying the software and Fujitsu the hardware, the team set to work. They set up a computer room at Motole -- available for the oncological ward's patients 24 hours a day, but reserved for the five patient members of the "media team" three times a week for live Internet chats with the roaming journalists.

While on the road, Kysela, photographer Iveta Kucerova, reporter Slavomil Janov, computer specialist Vaclav Vondracek and computer connection manager Pavel Tajanovsky keep in touch with the hospital on a laptop loaded with the latest Internet software. Both the journalists and the kids are posting stories and pictures to the project's home page, Lifebook.

Tajanovsky, a former Motole patient now a university student in Prague, is making a television film about the experience.

Sharing the experience

Kysela says he hopes to connect the Prague kids with children in similar U.S. hospitals -- with an eye to bringing Americans into the Czech Republic next spring for a reciprocal visit.

Martin, 11, poses in the Internet Automobile

It's an autumn road trip that won't soon be forgotten, by either the five rovers who are experiencing it, or the kids back in Prague who are seeing America through their eyes and ears.

They are traveling America in a brightly colored Czech Skoda, dubbed the "Internet Automobile." And there's no set agenda -- the kids choose the travelers' course during their three-time weekly chats.

"We're definitely like Pathfinder on Mars," says Kysela. "We are here to make (the children's) wishes come true as much as possible."

And where did the Prague-based media team send their rovers at the very start of their travels in Atlanta?

"I don't know if we can do it," laughs Kysela. "They want us to take a Pepsi can and go through the Coca-Cola museum and see what the reaction is."

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