Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Some pictures for your amusement

The Odessa Train Station... ummm, not really... but it plays the Odessa Train Station in Everything is Illuminated.

A view of Prague from Letna Park.

The stairs leading up to Letna Park. I think these are also in Everything is Illuminated. (But I need to go back and check the movie to be sure). Umm, I need to organize a tour of sights from Everything is Illuminated... the only thing is, I don't think I would make too much money with the tour. I mean, not like it is a hugely popular film, right?

The metronome at the top of Letna park. I think there was a statue here of some communist leader, but that was replaced by the metronome. According to my guidebook, the citizens of Prague generally feel that the metronome is not an improvement.

Prague from a bridge. Yeah. I know. I post a lot of "Prague from a river" pictures. There just happen to be a zillion bridges in Prague.

Okay... For all you 'Mericans out there... this is a chicken breast. No, it is not half of a chicken breast or even a third of a chicken breast--it is a complete chicken breast. Actually, these are TWO chicken breasts.

Friday, February 23, 2007


So, I'm sure everyone is wondering how my observation went.
It was weird. First of all, I had one student show up. When I asked him about the other students, he said that they had all gone out for drinks last night and (his words) had gotten pissed. There is a table in the classroom, so I just invited him to come up and sit next to me for the lesson. (This meant that my back was turned to the observer--which suit me just fine!). I could hear her writing lots and lots of notes--probably not a good thing, but whatever. I sort of followed my lesson plan, but I changed the emphasis a little (the student needed a bit more practice in some aspects of the activities, so I focused on those). Here is what I think the comments will be: I probably talked too much (and did not leave enough time for student response--I have a problem with this in general), I didn't do activity comprehension checks (which I think are a little odd in one-on-one lessons as human interaction does not generally come with questions that ask: what are you going to do now? How many sentences are you going to write? What verb form are you going to use to ask this question?), I probably didn't do error correction the way I'm supposed to (but again, it is something I do differently for one-on-one versus class lessons). Basically, I feel that for most of what I did, I had a reason. My actions (and reasons) may not be the ones that the school is looking for, but... this is who I am (for better or worse).
I have another observation next Tuesday, which will probably be a little more illustrative of my teaching style with a group. We shall see. I won't get any feedback from my observation today until Monday, though the observer did promise me that she would send me a general text/e-mail. I haven't received anything yet, though, so that concerns me a little. (No easy answer). Ugh.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Just to keep you posted!

The blogmistress asked me to post something for her. She's having trouble posting, and isn't quite sure why.

Here's the message:

"Anyway, just post that I'm doing better, that I haven't been able to get on my blog, not the worry about me, that I'm busy as hell (this whole week has been full of 12+ hour days, now that I think about it. I'm completely exhausted."

We've chatted a few times this week, and she does seem to be having some better days. Her teaching will be observed on Friday, so keep her in your thoughts!

Thursday, February 15, 2007


I suck. I am the worst teacher in the world. Ugh. I'm not going to have any students in my next class, I just know it. And I still have to do my three hour conversation class tomorrow. Just know they're gonna hate that one too...


Sunday, February 11, 2007


So, I don't know if I mentioned this before or not, but Mickey Ds is a luxury good here. A McD's meal is 99 crowns. That is generally more than I spend on food in a day--let alone a meal! (Okay, we just won't mention my 124 crown pizza that I polished off in one sitting last week).

Anyway, one of my classes is in a mall. If I have a few minutes before the class, I wander the mall and look at stuff. It is all so completely out of my price range. I'm not used to not being able to afford anything in a mall... it is disorienting. I mean, in the States I'm not a big mall rat and I don't spend a lot of money anyway, but I know that if I want to get a few clothes once a month (or once every couple of months), I can afford it. Not so here. I'm sure there are cheap places to get clothes and stuff, but I haven't found them yet.

Hmmm, what else... I think I'm over my cold. Finally. I'm still a little congested, but it's not too bad. Damn, it took me about a week to get over that thing. (Probably because I kept having to go outside to travel to classes and ride on the trams and metro with other sick people).

Last week two of my classes were on break and one of my students canceled, so I was short 10 teaching hours. I made up four hours by subbing two classes, but I still need to make up some more time. I may try to sub a class or two tomorrow if there are any available. I was really short on hours January so I am trying to make sure I have at least 20 hours a week in February (plus it's a short month, so...). I think I'm gonna need to add another class in a couple of weeks.

I also have an observation coming up at the end of the month...

Well, I'm gonna head to bed. I have a lot of stuff I want to write about the Czech psyche, but I think it is going to have to wait until a later time. I also need to write about my adventure trying to sub at a local bank. (Actually, both of my sub jobs last week were at banks... and both were adventures). I think I also need to write about my ADD student (adult). I think that's it... for now.


Just some images of and from Vysehrad in Prague. Pretty cool. Dvorak is buried here--which I didn't learn until I got back to the flat and read about Vysehrad, so I didn't actually see his grave. Oh well. Maybe next time). (BTW, Kafka is actually buried in the cemetery near where I live, but I haven't found his grave yet.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Czech Prez in the News...

(Article copied from

Czech President Klaus survives Roddick serve

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Czech President Vaclav Klaus's bodyguards are trained to dive in front of bullets to ensure his safety. But apparently that does not apply to tennis balls as well.

Klaus, sitting in the front row of the Czech Republic's Davis Cup tie against the United States, was on the receiving end of a serve from Andy Roddick, owner of the fastest serve in the game today.

Roddick's blast bounced up and hit Klaus, an avid tennis player himself, in the chest. The president was unhurt in the incident. Roddick played on unaware.

"I didn't notice that," Roddick said, smiling when told about the incident.

"But I said in warm-up that most of the time, there's a net behind the wall and I saw that this one (arena) didn't have one, so someone might be dodging some tennis balls today. But I promise you that it was nothing personal." Roddick, who holds the record for the fastest serve at 154 miles per hour (247.8 kmh) added insult to injury by going on to beat Czech Ivo Minar in the match.


Speaking of news....
Anna Nicole Smith is dead! I still can't get over that. I know I'm not supposed to care--I'm supposed to turn my nose up at the low brow reporting of tabloid news events, but... I just can't look away. CNN over here hasn't had anything on about her (focus was astronaut, then meeting in Mecca, then violence at the... forgot the name... something gate... Middle East). But so far nothing on ANS. I may have to flip on the news after I go grocery shopping to see if there is anything today. But wow... I feel like this is the end of a cultural era for the US of A. Am I totally nuts in thinking this? (For the record, I'm being slightly ironic, but only slightly. I'm mostly just bewildered about why I'm so fixated on the whole thing. Seriously, what is wrong with me?)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tech Support?

Mom suggested that I find someone out here who can act as my tech support, but I had to point out to her that, in Europe, I am tech support. (It was like this in France too). (My roomie and I had this discussion: Americans who are generally clueless with computers but who suddenly become experts upon arrival in Europe. Kinda cool, but ultimately, kinda scary).

Anyway, here's my question. Why is it that, every time my (HP) laptop goes on standby, I have to re-boot the computer to get back on the internet? I thought there was simply no internet. I was wrong--it is my laptop (dear god, I've destroyed another one). Is there some way to avoid this whole off-on thing, or am I just cursed?

By the way, I have no hot water. I don't even have any tepid water. It is 8:52 in the morning and the water heater should be awake by now. (This tends to happen to me if I skip a day without bathing).

And I'm still sick. Oh, and I got my roommate sick. And I ate all of her oatmeal raisin cookies. I am going to roommate hell.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

More ramblings to fall asleep to...

February 2, 2007 5:25 pm

Well, made it through the week. Yea! I just finished dinner—homemade French fries (I can feel my ass and stomach expanding into gross fatness, but they were soooo good. I’m having some tea now [with chocolate]).

Had my three hour conversation class today. Wow, those kids need help. Their English is actually pretty good, but… wow, where to start. I was talking to my roomie about it, and she was just like, “wow.” I don’t know where to start, even, but I now have a list of future conversation topics.

So. Last week we talked about guns and school massacres (easy topic—sure to generate conversation). Then we watched “Bowling for Columbine” (which I tried not to present as gospel—in fact, on this viewing I found myself a little put off by the film, but whatever.) Anyway, today I wanted to talk to them about it some to see how much they understood. And they had actually picked up a bit more than I had thought. Only... there were parts that they hadn’t quite gotten. For example, when I asked them what MM thought was one of the reasons there were school shootings in the USA, one of the students said, “Negros.” Okay, stop. We now have vocabulary appropriacy (I have no idea how to spell that, but neither does MS Word) issues and (Major) comprehension issues. I asked why they thought he thought this, and another student mentioned the short animated film in the movie. So I walked them through the main points of the film short (related to fear of African-Americans, not African-Americans being the cause of the shootings). So then the conversation turned to the USA having different cultures. (I didn’t want to stifle the conversation and I wanted them to have their own opinions, but I did want to make sure they had the points of the movie right and that they were using appropriate vocabulary and that they were not making basic faulty assumptions—it was an odd balancing game). So, when talking about the different cultures of the US, they started talking about “Native Americans,” but they didn’t mean Native Americans, they meant White, European descended Americans. I corrected them, but I don’t think they completely understood that a person born in the US (no matter the origin of their parents) is an American. (I’ve encountered this before, when students tell me that another student is Russian. I assume that this means that the student came from Russia a few years ago and speak Russian. No. It means that, at some point in the student’s familys’ history, they came from Russia to the Czech Republic.) So then the students started referring to “normal” Americans.


I ask them what a “normal” American is, and they say, “like you.” Like me what? Uhhh…

Yeah. Thought so.

Ugh. I can’t even get into all the messy missteps the conversation took. All I know is that I now have a list of topics to present to them for future conversations. We are starting with Native American cultures, I’ve decided. Why? Because they informed me that, before the Europeans discovered America, there was nothing there. No culture, no technology, no civilization, nothing. Yeah, I totally need to address that. Then I’ll go from there.

I don’t want to brainwash my students into being hippie liberals, but I think a lot of what they were saying was the result of basic ignorance of US American culture and history. I want to make sure they have some more of that (and hopefully make them think a little more critically about some of the stuff they were saying, but we shall see).

February 3, 2007 8:22 am

So, this past week, I spent 1529 crowns. That’s 1179 on food and entertainment (and includes an opera ticket, a drag show, and a [somewhat expensive] beer), and 350 on my Czech book. It is not great, but it is not bad. My goal is to get it down to under 1000 crowns. My roomie only spends 500 crowns a week on groceries, but she never eats, so… I don’t think I will ever get my grocery costs that low!

6:26 pm

Just ate an entire pizza… woa. I didn’t mean to. I just kept eating slices and, all of a sudden, I opened the pizza box and the pizza was gone! I’m considering having some chocolate now. Well, maybe I will wait awhile.

So, I’ve felt a little crappy today. I think I am just a little run down after last week. I pretty much spent the day inside. I watched Amadeus… but I was actually pretty disappointed that I didn’t recognize any of the buildings. The snow did look familiar, though. In fact, I found it pretty funny that every outdoor shot involved snow (I know, I know… it has only snowed twice since I’ve been here, but… I don’t know, it seemed appropriate.)

So, anyway, my roommate and I went to a drag show last night. I t was pretty entertaining. Everything was in Czech, but most of the songs were in English (a couple were in Czech, one was in French, and one was in Spanish). At one point, the announcer said something about černy musika. My roommate looked at me and said, “black music?” and we raised our eyebrows at each other. Turns out černy musika is a tall, Czech drag queen with a giant afro wig singing “I will Survive.” That was pretty standard, but the ending was… worth the price of admission, I think. The song morphed into a Russian style and the drag queen (still in the ‘fro wig) started doing the Russian bob up and down and kick dance (I don’t know what it is called, but I know you all know what I’m talking about). It was absolutely excellent—approaching sublime. It was the highlight of the evening as far as I was concerned.

I may never need to eat again. I probably shouldn’t. I still can’t believe I ate an entire pizza like that. Dude.

Future topics:
Jirny (ugh. Still too traumatic).
Skunk Hair (and anyone who has been in Europe will know what this is)
Mullets, Michael Jackson, and The Final Countdown (time warp, anyone?)
Czech citizenship

Actually, I think I will write about the last one—Czech citizenship—now. My roomie and I were just discussing the fact that the Czechs don’t really seem to understand diversity, and she mentioned to me that, in order to be/become a Czech citizen, one must be at least 25% Czech. I was just like, “?” As in, how do they measure that? Is there a blood test for Czechness? She pointed out that the fact that, until pretty recently, the Czech Republic was a closed country. Okay, fine, but… I say again, “?” So we discussed that fact that, in a few years, the government is probably going to have to change this law. They won’t be able to measure it and even if they could… well, a Czech woman has a child with a Ukranian. Kid is now only 50% Czech. This kid stays in the Czech Republic his entire life, is culturally Czech, and marries a German woman. Their kid is now only 50% Czech. If this kid has a baby with, say, someone from France… The kid still won’t be Czech. He could be raised in the Czech Republic, speak Czech as his first language, be completely culturally Czech, and STILL NOT BE CZECH. So, I say again, “?” But I guess my inability to understand this is perhaps like my students inability to understand anything different from this.


February 4, 2007 8:00 am

Time to face facts: I am sick. It is not the flu (not achy enough) and not strep or tonsillitis (tonsils not swollen enough), but I do feel like crap. I blame that nasty teenage boy in the metro who kept coughing on me (like, not coughing in my direction, but actually hitting me on the back of the neck [and only because I turned around] with cough). The good news is that my week is a little lighter because two of my classes are on break (the bad news is that I won’t get paid for those classes).

So, I’m gonna stay in again today too… make myself some chicken noodle soup (I was gonna do some Chicken Florentine with the meat I got yesterday, but now I think I need to use it to make chicken soup. Don’t have noodles so I will have to use rice. I wonder if I make the rice first, then add it, or if I can just throw in a couple of handfuls of raw rice and just cook it in the Chicken Soup. Hmmm…).

Maybe I can scalp my opera ticket to some tourists. Or to my roommate. But I think I am not so sick I can’t go see an opera (if I were supposed to teach today, I’m not so sick that I would call out sick, so I figure I’m not too sick to go see an opera).

I suppose I can use this time today to catch up on my ‘blog… not that there is to much left to write about.

About time:

So, I’ve mentioned that the week speeds up towards the end—that time is not exactly even. It is similar to the principle of “an hour in the dentist’s chair is longer than an hour with a lover,” but it is not exactly the same. That principle measures a single hour. My theory, on the other hand, measures the relationship of the hours in a measurable unit (a week, a month, a year, etc). It explains why sometimes one year can pass more quickly than another. So, imagine a piece of taffy. It is pretty tacky stuff, and hard to work—you can stretch it, but it takes a lot of work. But, once you manage to stretch it, it becomes easier. If you take one end of the taffy piece in both hands and pull it apart, it becomes easier and easier to stretch until finally you no longer have to actually move your hands—it continues to stretch out on its own, thinner and thinner (until it eventually breaks, but that’s a different theory). Anyway, time is like taffy—once you start to stretch it… well, basically, you stretch it too much and you’re screwed.

Okay, I’m exhausted. Time to eat some breakfast then go to sleep.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

More more Czech Journal

February 1, 1007 9:15pm

Well, made it to Feb. Hell, I made it through this week. Well, almost. I still have one more day to go, and then I can say I made it through the week. Now I guess I can say that I can almost make out the finish line, somewhere over there, way ahead of me in the distance. It’s hazy, but I’m sure it is there somewhere. And this week needs to be over. I don’t suppose it will seem like much when I write about it, but let me assure you the whole thing was pretty damn trying.

First of all, I had to do my timesheets. At the school, you don’t actually get the timesheets until a few days before they are due. So basically you have to go back through all your notes and class attendance sheets to remember everything you taught, everything that was cancelled, etc, etc. Then, each class needs to be marked separately. My time “sheet” was five pages long. Then you have to gather up attendance sheets, which need to be signed by students (whoops). So this was actually quite time consuming (considering that I had to keep hunting people down with questions. First, my hourly pay wasn’t right. Then, I needed to know how to actually fill the thing out. Then, I had a couple of odd classes that I didn’t know how to record. Then, I didn’t know how to mark my freakin’ LEGO classes (more on that later). Then I had to get students’ signatures. Then, I had to make photocopies. And so on, and so on, and so on.) I did finally get the thing turned in today—my depressingly miniscule salary should appear in my new Czech bank account next week. Now all I need is a bank card.

So, Monday I planned lessons and messed with time sheets. Tuesday I had my two morning classes. In the second class (which I share with another teacher who teaches on Thursday), I started doing an activity with the students only to be told that the other teacher had already done that with them (we are supposed to text each other after every class and let the other know what we did). Anyway, I went home after the class to get some breakfast and a shower. I got the breakfast and hopped into the shower when: “plunk.” Huh? “plop… plop plop.” I don’t have my glasses on (duh) so I have no idea what is going on. “plop, plop, thud.” Yes, the thud was something landing on my head. I finished my shower quickly, hopped out, put the glasses on, and looked up. And sure enough, hallelujah, it is raining ceiling. I dried off quickly, threw on some clothes, and called the landlord. He came up right away, was very apologetic, cleaned up the mess, and called a couple of guys to come in right away to fix it. (What had happened: there were some guys in the attic installing [there’s got to be a better verb] installation and drilling into the attic floor/my bathroom ceiling. The screws had knocked ceiling bits loose [okay, I say ceiling bits, but the bathtub was full of ceiling by the time the landlord arrived]). All in all, it was less painful than it could have been. I would have forgotten all about it if it hadn’t been for the fact that the rest of my week was so crazy. (It also meant that I couldn’t do any lesson prep during that time). Anyway, I got to the school, taught my class, and then went over to some other teachers’ apartment for dinner.

Oh, wait! I totally forgot—my alarm didn’t go off Tuesday morning! (I wonder how many other little things like that that happened this week that my mind has repressed. I, believe it or not, was only about 3 minutes late to my first lesson (but I was without any tea in my system and I looked completely unkempt). The rest of the day I just felt like I was playing catch up. Anyway, moving on…

Wednesday. Ugh. I don’t think I can write about Wednesday yet. Still too soon. Maybe tomorrow, when the week is really over.

Anyway, I haven’t been sleeping really well lately (like, this entire week). I try to get to bed early, then I just lie there and think, “why can’t I sleep? I’m completely exhausted. Why can’t I sleep? I’m completely exhausted. Why can’t I sleep? I’m completely exhausted. Why can’t I sleep? I’m completely exhausted. Why can’t I sleep? I’m completely exhausted. Why can’t I sleep? I’m completely exhausted.” (and so on, and so on, and so on). Anyway, it is not the most relaxing thought to have (nor is, “What the heck am I going to do with my students tomorrow?” or “Ack! I have to wake up in three hours to go teach! Why can’t I sleep? I’m so exhausted.”)

Well, I think that is all I can really write tonight. The rest will have to wait for some other day. Oh, one last piece of news, though. I bought a ticket to go see an opera this coming Sunday. It in the nosebleed section (but it is seated, not standing). Price? 80 crowns. That’s about US $4.50 (by the way, what is up with the dollar? Every time I walk past an exchange booth, the dollar has dropped just a little more. Come on folks, you gotta work to keep that dollar up, at least while I’m still using my US savings to survive out here in the wilds of Prague.

More Czech Journal

January 31, 2007 8:36pm

So… tired… brain…hurting… body… too tired to feel much of anything at this point. I can’t figure out if it wants some food or not. Probably not.

Another modified Murphy’s Law day (Law of the Friday Morning DVD). This is what happens when you have to teach an out-of-Prague lesson involving a tram ride, a metro ride, a bus ride, a cell phone call, and a car ride (consider the possibilities for disaster). I can’t even go into it now—too traumatic. And I get to do it all again next week.

And this is 22 teaching hours. Most people carry at least 30. I am doing something seriously wrong here.

I’m teaching three classes tomorrow and two of them are not prepped. One is just not gonna get prepped before it is taught (tomorrow at 7:30am). The other, well, prep time may be replacing lunch. I have no idea what I am going to do with them. I need to create another grammar exercise to go over what we did Tuesday (which they had problems with, but there is nothing else in the book to give them the practice they need). I also want to do something fun because it is the last day of class and I feel I should reward them for just showing up.

And I have an observation coming up soon. Paralysis setting in, starting at the lungs. Can’t. Breathe. Gasp. Darkness. Fading. No light. (How great am I that I can overact on paper/blog?)

And my face is completely broken out. Insult to injury. Trauma to trauma. Molehill to mountain (and trust me, I’ve got some serious mountains on my face right now).

And the award goes to...

Okay, this is the second creepies thing in Prague--the museum of Communism. I haven't been inside yet (!), so maybe it is really neat and warm and inviting... if you can get past the tank.

This wins the award for creepiest structure in Prague. It is at the end of the park near where I live, and it is HUGE! (look for the tiny people in the picture--it is like trying to spot Waldo. Click on the picture itself to enlarge it if you are having problems finding the person in the yellow coat). Anyway, I think this is a statue of Jan Vaclav Hus Havel, who lead a Protestant Army into Prague, then lit himself on fire before being flung out of the window by a couple of communist soldiers. He was okay, though, because he landed on Kafka, who was... (uhhh, running out of cultural references... I've obviously gotta learn a little bit more... oh, wait, I remember!) Kafka was having an affair with the Prime Minister and got pregnant and now no one has any confidence in the Czech Government!

Pics of my room (and flat/apartment)

Prague Snow