Monday, January 15, 2007

Prague Journal Update

(Here is some more of my Prague Journal. Enjoy.)

January 5, 2007 8:10pm

The incredible shrinking stomach: So, after almost two weeks of not eating much and about three days of eating almost nothing, I decided that tonight I was going to force myself to start eating (this decision was a result of my noting a certain amount of dizzyness, especially when I bent over to pick up some books for school. I don’t know if it had anything to do with my eating patterns, but I figured the whole near lack of food might at least be a contributing factor). So, I planned a menu of tomato soup, bread, cheese, butter, salami, mystery bread (with meat inside?), and yoghurt. I made it through the tomato soup (a small bowl) and over half of the mystery bread before I had to call it quits. I feel stuffed.

So my project for the weekend is to get some veggies into myself and start eating a little more.

Anyway, don’t worry about the whole food thing--it is just temporary until I get a bit more settled. I just haven’t had much of an appetite lately.

I just thought it was worth mentioning that a person could actually feel stuffed on tomato soup and some mystery bread.

I am going to have a piece of chocolate though. As soon as my stomach feels just a little less full…

8:51 pm

Just had my chocolate. Now I’m wondering if that was a mistake, but my stomach is (most surprisingly) not very pleased. And I thought for sure that chocolate would make it happy.

I’m posting a lot of boring, useless nonsense to my blog, I know, but I’m a little bit lonely here. It always takes me a long time to make friends, so right now adding stuff to my blog is really the main way I can feel connected to my friends and family. As I get to know people, I will probably write less, but for now, as I’m just starting out, well…. This blog is a record of all my minor actions and all the minor events in my life. So, yeah, you guys get to read all about the piece of chocolate that broke the camels back. Or nearly. Or still might. I’m in this big battle with the stomach over it right now, but I have just got to show that stomach of mine who is boss. Plus I hate throwing up. So I’m just not going to. So there, you stilly stomach of mine.

I do think I am going to make some more chamomile tea, though. A sort of truce by herbal tea?

So, the youth hostel I stayed in when I first got to Prague: it was actually very nice (for a youth hostel). It was clean and the beds were not too uncomfortable (actually, my bed at the youth hostel was a lot more comfortable than my bed here, but I don’t actually like to dwell on that too much). I was in a ten bed room in the hostel. A ten bed male and female room (ugh, there is a word for that, I know it, but I’m too tired to think of anything other than co-ed, which I know is not the word I’m looking for). So anyway, my first night there, this couple got in pretty late. They dropped their stuff off and went out. They came back a few hours later and lay down to go to sleep. Well, the guy did. The female kept waking up every hour or so to run to the bathroom and vomit. I know that this is what she was doing because I could hear it. Yes, all of it. Anyway, the next day I woke up and they were both still sleeping. Fine, whatever. So I go the bathroom to brush my teeth and EWWW, she’s been vomiting in the SINK. I say again, EWWWW. Lettuce. So, yeah, there was that. Anyway, she slept all day and then, that night, when I was trying to get to sleep, she and her boyfriend had a little, umm, campout? They took the blankets from the unoccupied beds, used them as curtains around one of the bottom bunks and, um, entertained themselves. So I figure the chick is feeling better, right? Well, maybe not, because after spending half the night awake with the boyfriend, she spends the following day sleeping. Yes, all day. Seriously, I ask you, what is the point of going to Prague if all you do is drink yourself into oblivion and screw your significant other? Can’t that be done at home (or at least in the privacy of an individual hotel room)?

So, yeah, it as nice to be away from all that.

My roommate’s daughter is having a sleepover with two of her friends. Although the room I am in is pretty big, the apartment itself is very small. It is only two bedrooms with a very small entry way and a separate kitchen. When my roomie’s daughter is here, she sleeps in the same room as my roomie. So I guess tonight they are all sleeping in one room. I’m just trying to imagine my Mom having to share a room with me ane a couple of my friends when I was about ten. I don’t think Mom would have enjoyed that too much. J

January 12, 2007 6:09pm

Wow, what a totally crazy week. Between visa stuff (two trips to visa help office and one trip to the doctor), classes, prepping said classes, and apartment shopping, I’m completely exhausted. Actually, today wasn’t too bad. I just had a little bit of class prep this morning, then a three hour conversation class (I’m supposed to have eight students but only two of them showed up so I couldn’t do half of what I had planned. Little f*ckers.), then some apartment shopping. I only had to visit one place today (as opposed to yesterday, when I visited three places, taught two classes, and did some mad prep for yesterday and today. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was crazy all day long). I’ve already explained about the place I found today, so… time to catch up one some other stories.

I know I posted something about my critical trip to the store to buy some TP, and I’d like to finish that story. So, here I was in the apartment, and I realized that there were about two layers of TP on the roll and no other rolls in the cabinet. So I decided to avert a critical situation and run down to the local Delvita (grocery store) to get some more. I threw on a sweatshirt and a coat, grabbed my purse, and headed out. I got to the store and found the TP with relative ease (I love clear packaging). There were some different types, so I grabbed a set of four rolls that had strawberries on them--I thought they were kinda cute. As I walked down the asile, I thought I passed something with an air freshener smell. “Guess I’ve found the air fresheners,” I thought, and then forgot all about it. But then, while I was standing in line to face the grocery goblin (see previous post about grocery store clerks), I thought I could catch a whiff of something still. “Hmm, I thought, must be some more air fresheners up here too? Very odd. Smells kinda… fruity. Very cloying. Like… strawberries?” I then looked down at the package of TP in my hands. Strawberry print, mysterious strawberry smell following me… could it be coming from the… toilet paper? The grocery store was crowded, but I brought the package of TP to my nose and gave it a good sniff. Oh yeah, definitely the TP. It only took me about a half second to decide that I didn’t really want my a$$ to smell like fruit, so I went back to the TP aisle and proceeded to smell every package of TP until I found one that wasn’t scented. It actually doesn’t seem as funny now as it was when it happened, but for some odd reason I found it all insanely amusing (exhaustion?). So, yeah, that is my TP story. And you all thought I’d be writing about Prague. Silly you.

Another trip I made this past week was to the doctor to get a slip of good health for my visa. When I was in France, I had to have a chest x-ray, so I was expecting basically the same thing here (the chest x-ray in France, by the way, is its own story. I want with one of my roommates and the x-ray technician kept trying to look at her boobs. He never even bothered with mine, and I wasn’t sure if I should have been relieved or offended. But anyway.) There were two “English-speaking doctor” options, so I chose the cheapest. I couldn’t make an appointment; I just had to show up during the office hours and wait. So I did. The wait wasn’t too bad, maybe just a half an hour before the doctor was able to see me.

Okay, and wow. I think that when I passed through the doors into the office I hit a time warp and went about twenty years into the past. This office was… um… a little… um… well, the first thought that popped into my head was to start calling the doctor comrade. Probably a good thing I didn’t, though, as he didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor. Nor was the designation “English-speaking doctor” completely accurate. Still, he asked me maybe five questions about my general health (“Are you sick? You have any pains of joints? Allergies?”) He then took my blood pressure, listened to my lungs, and told me it would be 300 Crowns. When I was in France, I paid the doctor directly, so it wasn’t a completely new idea, but I still find it very odd to just hand a doctor some money. Maybe it is odd in the States that we keep our doctors so removed from the idea of money, especially considering how expensive health care is (what do you think? Discuss.). But anyway, he wrote me my little healthy slip and, as I was standing up to go, he asked me if I knew how many Kilos I had in weight. I told him I had no idea, and he shrugged and said okay. So yeah. That was my trip to the doctor.

Oh, and the office… I never got around to describing it (sorry, a little scattered here still). There was the doctor’s desk, and then a little cot in the corner. There was a sink in the back, and a dust-covered type writer in the corner behind the doctor’s desk. And that was it. Nothing on the walls (except for maybe some peeling paint). No computers, no medical equipment (other than a blood pressure thing and a stethoscope). For some reason, after the “comrade” thought, the next thing to pop into my head was the idea that, if it were the 1970s and I was looking for a backstreet abortion, this is probably the place I would have wound up in. Hmm, yeah. But I think I have a doctor now, because he told me that, once I get my medical insurance card, I can take it to him to register it and then I can come see him when I am sick. His office is actually right on the tram line from where I will be living, so I may do that. If I get sick and cancel my classes, I have to have a doctor’s note, so it would probably be easiest to crawl out of bed, catch the tram, stagger into his office, get a sick note, stagger back to the tram, go home, and sleep the rest of the day (the other English speaking option is on the other side of Prague, so…I think I’ve got my doctor now).

So today, with my two students who actually showed up, I discussed the merits of the word “f*ck.” Turns out that, even when they are speaking in Czech, they cuss in English. I just think that nothing beats the punch and power of a good Germanic cuss word. They said some of their Slavonic cusses, but they were just so long, and they didn’t contain any powerful consonants (surprisingly) . A powerful, explosive consonant is an absolute necessity for a good, effective cuss word. I said that, if there were a contest of all the cusswords in the world, f*ck would probably win. They agreed, though their main complaint about the whole thing is that English doesn’t have enough cuss words. I explained to them that, in that case, they need to combine the cuss words and come up with inventive new ways to express themselves. (I demonstrated this for them with a not-very-impressive-for-me string of cussing. I think they got the picture--what I call “Kenning cussing.”). Anyway… now you all know what type of teacher I really am.

Ribs. That was something else I was going to write about, right? I saw some of my ribs the other night. I mean, through the skin and everything, but I could see definite rib-like shapes under the skin. Which is not to scare you all--I haven’t lost much (if any) weight since I’ve been here (well, I do think I’ve lost a little because I had to go out and buy a belt--oh! That’s another story! Remind me!) but whatever. But this rib-spotting was a little disturbing because of the location of the ribs. These weren’t side, under to boob ribs. No, these were center, above the boob ribs (I guess the sternum?). Anyway, that this means is that my boobs are migrating downward. Sagging. I don’t recall being able to see “above the boob” ribs when I was, say, nineteen. Does anyone?

But as far as self-image is concerned, mine has improved drastically since I’ve been here. It has nothing really to do with how I look, but how other people look. Back in the States, I was at this University campus with these skinny little blond eighteen year olds running around with their bellies showing. Here I am surrounded by women who, while not fat, have definitely had their share of pork and dumplings. Most of these women are, again, not fat, but certainly not stick-like. The States are so weird for this whole body image thing simply because of our extremes. There is no simple middle over there (or there is a middle, but it is a complicated middle).

Mmmm, and speaking of weight and stuff like that, I found my Smarties over here. Only over here they are called “Lentilky.” And I should probably mention that these are not the sour Smarties you get in the States. These are the chocolate Smarties that are soooo yum. (I’m eating some right now). (Although the sour Smarties are pretty yum too).

So, who’s coming to visit me? I have B & B in early June, and my mom in Mid-March, but who else want to see Prague? I can’t do the whole tour guide thing (that work stuff, you know, gets in the way a little), but I can point you in some right directions (and probably some wrong ones too).

Hmmm, what else is new. Oh! I have two more classes starting the week after next. They are in the Lego factory (!). It is cool, but the factory is pretty far away. I have to take a Metro, then a bus, and then get into a private car to get to he factory. It will take about an hour to get there (and then an hour to get back). The travel is really what drains my time. I may only have 18 or so teaching hours in a week, but when you figure that, to get to al my classes takes a half an hour (and then a half and hour back), well, it adds up. And I can’t do any work on the Metro, so… And no, I don’t get paid for travel time (though I think I will get an extra 30 crowns for the Lego factory job. But just to give you an idea, I think it is about 20 Crowns in a US dollar [and 27.5 Crowns in a Euro]).

I sort of learned how to pronounce r “hotchick” today. My students taught me (one student’s mom is a speech therapist for Czech kids. Turns out a lot of kids--and adults--here have problems with the r “hotchick.”). Anyway, here is how you do it:

Put your back teeth together (so your top front teeth overlap your bottom front teeth)
Purse your lips
Roll an r
DON’T look in a mirror.

I tried this and AFTER my students finished laughing, they said they were very proud of me and that I had done an excellent job. So I spent my Tram Time today trying to hide the lower half of my face in my scarf so I could practice.

But I am determined to get it.

8:17 pm

So, I was just adding some things up, and with 22 teaching hours a week, I will be making a bit more than I thought I would be making (it is amazing how much it changes from 20 to 22 hours… or I am doing the math totally wrong). Another advantage of working my ass off is that I don’t have time to spend any money on anything (um, yea?). I need to go open a bank account this weekend. I may actually go shopping. I don’t like spending money I haven’t made, but all the major sales are in January, so it makes sense for me to buy some things now rather than waiting until I get paid (when everything will go back to the regular prices).

January 13, 2007 4:46pm

Well, I was going to try and get out and do some shopping or socializing or something, but here I am, still on my ass. I feel so completely drained. I did go for a jog this morning (and I went through my Tai Chi form, as well as my small San Sau and the large San Sau I know so far), and I wrote a letter to a MD Senator telling her to fight Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, but other than that… Well, I did spend a lot of time on the computer trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with my cell phone. I think that is why I feel so drained. I must have spent hours trying to figure it all out (and hours of stress over being homeless simply because a MF cell phone won’t work is… well, draining).

I did (sort of) figure out what was wrong with the cell. It wasn’t working. Calls weren’t getting through. I finally, in a flash of inspiration, turned the thing off and turned it on again and VOILA problem solved. Okay, I still don’t know what the problem was or if it will happen again, but it seems to be okay now. I called the landlord guy and told him what was up. He had set up a meeting with the other roommate this morning, but because my cell phone wasn’t working… well, now he has to call her again and set up another time. He offered to call me back and I was like, no, why don’t I call you…

I hate cell phones.

I really need to go grocery shopping. I have 1 slice of salami left. I have an orange, some chocolate, some Edam cheese, and two things of yoghurt. Probably not enough to make it through the week… I need to get some more veggies. And probably some meat. And maybe some bread. And maybe some eggs too… In short, I need to go do some serious grocery shopping.

I’m going to miss living here because I’ve been able to listen to Czech in context. My roommate speaks with her daughter (and her daughter’s friends) in Czech, and I can listen and watch. For example, if my roomie is in the kitchen preparing some food and her daughter comes in, says something, and then opens the fridge and gets out some food, I know that she has asked her mom for food and that her mom has suggested whatever it is the daughter pulled out of the fridge. I still am not saying anything in Czech (other than “I don’t speak Czech), but I am actively listening to it. The sound of it has really grown on me. At first, it just sounded awful to me. But now I can hear some interesting sounds and rhythms in it that I want to learn.

On the other hand, even though I will miss it here, I can’t wait to move into my new place. I just want to be settled somewhere, to feel like I have a home (this feels temporary to me.. Well, duh. It *is* temporary). I want to feel like I can buy groceries without having to worry about moving them in a few days (one of the reasons I’m avoiding this necessary trip to the grocery store… I also have no idea what to fix for dinner tonight… Veggies. I need veggies. I’m actually craving vegetables.)

I feel soooo tired…

January 14, 2007 5:30pm

Well, I had a better day today. I met my future roommate and signed my lease (and paid my security deposit--I have to pay my rent on Friday when I move in). The landlord is going to clean the room AND provide me with a duvet AND fresh sheets. How cool is that? He also changes the light bulbs in the apartment. He is also going to give me a bus map. He seems to really look out for his tenants. My future roommate has lived there for three years. Also, it is too funny because one of the teachers at my school lives there. He is one that I share a class with.

Other than all that, I really didn’t do much today. But that’s okay. Well, actually, I prepped five classes today (yea me). I have a really awesome lesson I’ve planned for one of my classes and, if it goes well, I am going to try it with another group (or two… or three).

But I realized that I haven’t been posting much (um, anything) about my classes, so… here is some news on the job front.

Right now I’m teaching 18 hours a week. Starting the week after this coming week, I am going to be teaching 22 hours a week. I will have two 90 min lessons at the Lego factory (I know, I know, how cool is that?). The only thing about the Lego factory is that it takes about an hour to get there and an hour to get back. I have to take the metro to the end of the line, take bus to the end of its line, THEN hop into a private car for the rest of the way. The classes are on Wednesday, which brings my total time for Wednesday up to 8 and ½ teaching hours (not including travel time, which will work out to about four hours total). So, yeah, crazy day.

My students are pretty good overall. I have mostly intermediate classes (from pre-intermediate up to advanced intermediate and a couple of advanced classes). I am finding, though, that most of my students are not creative. I’ve had a couple of really cool lessons fall flat because my students just can’t get into it. I figured I’d be having to fun and learning as boring grammar.

I had this one lesson where I gave the students a series of pictures and had them put them in order and then tell a ghost story about them. For that class, I managed to pair the two least creative students together (whoops). I also managed to pair the two most creative students together (double whoops). So, I had my two uncreative students staring at the pictures and asking me for the answer. I tried to convince them that there was no actual right answer, but they just weren’t buying it. Across from them, the creative students were laughing and writing out this intricate story line. Back to the two uncreative students, who are slumped at their desks, arms folded, and who are starting to glare, not just at me, but at each other. When they started to argue, I was like, “okay! Time’s up! Put your pencils down!” This, of course, upset the two create students, who were only halfway through their story. Ugh. Oh, and did I mention that this is a class of people 16-33? These are not exactly kids here. Sheesh.

Last Friday I had another excellent lesson where the kids had to design a wild charity stunt (I had a picture of a guy sailing over water using Leonardo Da Vinci wings to get them started). Okay, FIRST of all, out of a class of eight, only two showed up (WTF that was all about, I don’t know. I’m trying not to feel too paranoid about it. It was Friday after all). SO, after I get them talking about the picture and the idea of charity stunts, I tell them they now have to design their own charity stunt. They looked at me like I had grown a third toenail from my forehead. “We’ll throw a party,” they informed me. “But what about a charity stunt? Don’t you think that would raise more money?” I asked. “No,” they informed me. “What if it was something really weird that no one had seen before?” I asked. “No. We will throw a party. A dance party.” So I figure, sure, we’ll work with that. “But are you going to have a charity stunt at the party?” I asked them (I really, really wanted a charity stunt. I wanted to see what they could come up with.) “Nope. But we’ll have beer there, and we can give 10% of our beer sales to charity” they decided. So that was that, and I had to admit defeat.

So I have this excellent lesson planned for my morning class at a computer company (with computer technicians). I’m gonna play them some Tina Turner (‘Nutbush City Limits‘), do a cloze activity, and then get them to imagine the town, the people who live in the town, and what they would do if they lived in the town (I have pictures for all of these). I’m a little concerned that all this creativity might not fly with a bunch of computer, um, people (I was gonna say nerds, but I thought better of it). If they protest, I am going to point out that this task actually mirrors one of the tasks they are going to be asked to do when they take their exam. So. There. (But I will be totally perplexed if my ‘Nutbush’ lesson plan completely flops. I mean, how can I go wrong with Tina? Not possible.)

Ugh. I just scrolled back a little and I realized that I’ve repeated myself a bit. Oh well. I’m trying to hold info about my students and schedule and whatnot in my head, so naturally I can’t exactly remember what I’ve written and what I haven’t.

I have another “experimental” lesson planned for tomorrow night. It is a fluency lesson disguised as a grammar lesson (I’m getting sneaky). I noticed that, even though my students are advanced to proficient, they are still having some problems with their past tenses (all of them. Which really isn’t a big surprise because Czech only has one past tense. Guess it needs to make up for the ten zillion inflections somehow. But anyway). So, I’m gonna give each person a past tense (perfect, progressive, and perfect progressive) and then have them do a little personal review of that tense. Then, they will need to explain it to the other students. Next, I wrote out some cards with “tell me a story about something that happened to you when you…” The students have to draw a card, tell a story, and the other students will listen to the story and also to the students’ tenses. If they hear a tense used incorrectly, they have a choice if they want to correct it right away or wait until the end of the story. (In this way I can find out if my students prefer immediate error correction or delayed error correction.) I think this activity will give them a little bit more “ownership” of the past tenses. At least that is my rationale for the lesson… we will see how well it works…

Well, that is all the news here. I didn’t do anything touristy this weekend. H, actually, I found the theatre where Don Giovanni premiered. I think that is pretty cool. (Basically, I was walking down the street and saw a bunch of tourists taking pictures, so I figured the building much be something important). I also went into H&M to see if they had anything good for sale, but all the normal stuff was gone (it was just the really weird junk that H&M mixes in with the more normal stuff that I actually wear). I didn’t make it into Promod, though. Actually, I was surprised that anything was open today. I figured everything would be locked up tight all day long, it being Sunday and all.

I’ve started looking for a Tai Chi instructor here. I’ve found a couple, but I don’t know how different their form is from the one I’ve learned. I would hate to have to learn a whole new form (and if it came to that, I would just work on the form on my own and try a different style of Martial Arts--probably a harder style). I don’t know. I guess I will figure something out. I still don’t have a good sense of how different the various styles are. I don’t really care so much about finding the one that is “the best” because I figure they are all good (if the instructors are good). I just want to find one that incorporates the Martial aspects of the form (not just the health aspects).

I also need to register for my free Czech lessons (and possibly some French classes). I haven’t totally decided on the French yet--I don’t know how much time I will have. If I can keep my schedule at 22 teaching hours… well, I figure about an hour or so prep for each class, and then ten travel hours total for the week… which is 54 hours a week devoted to work. If I add Czech and Tai Chi, how much time have I realistically got left? But I really hate the idea of losing my French even more. If I took classes here, I could study for an exam in the language and be able to add that to my CV (as opposed to just “Intermediate French” which is on there now. How useless is that anyway?)

Well, gonna go make some food. I need me some veggies still. I bought zucchini (cukety) today, so I’m gonna do something with that, the tomatoes (rajcata), and the mozzarella cheese (syr) I got yesterday.

c = /ts/


At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anna said...

I'm not sure how I had missed a significant chunk of this epic blog, but I just caught up on some of it. Mmmm, vomiting and copulating and snoring, oh my!

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Ovonia Red said...

Was this you vomiting, copulating, and snoring? Oh my! I dont' think it was me--if you found it somewhere in my blog, let me know because I'd love to know what I missed!

At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Anna said...

Umm, the hostel-mate woman who partied too much at night, both drinking and in bed, and I kinda threw in the snoring part for a threesome.


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