Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Taking the Cure" at Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad)

So, Saturday I went to Karlovy Vary with another teacher from the school. It is west of Prague (about two hours by bus) and has been bounced back and forth between Germany and Prague (hence the fact that it has a German name, Carlsbad, and a Czech name, Karlovy Vary). It is a spa town--the mineral springs were discovered by Charles IV (in what my guidebook refers to as a very "Beverly Hillbillies" moment). I did try a sip of the waters--basically hot water with a nasty aftertaste. I suppose I ought to have brought a tea bag...

Anyway, these pictures are ordered from North to South, following along the river (which flows from South to North). Everything was basically along the river. The whole town had a completely different feel from the other places I've been to in the Czech Republic. For one thing, it was cleaner. For another, it seemed a lot more affluent. Oh, and there were a lot (A LOT) of fat Germans there. Like, HUGE Germans. I almost started to have traumatic flashbacks to German Preschool.

Sadova Kolonada.

Mlynska kolonada.

Vridelni kolonada.

A view of Karlovy Vary from the Diana Tower (we took the funicular up). The bottom center building with the glass section that goes up houses the Vridlo, the hottest spring, which bubbles up about 15 meters.

Jeleni skok, Stag's Leap. I had seen a picture of this in my guidebook and I really wanted to find it (mainly because my guidebook has ONE picture from KV and this was it AND because there were signs for Jeleni skok all over the mountain, so I figured it must be something impressive). Anyway, my travel companion got off the funicular halfway down from the Diana tower and started walking. And walking. And walking. We stumbled across a hotel, a restaurant, a giant cross on the hill (which I had always thought of as a Central/South American thing, but I guess they exist in the CR too), and a couple of gazebos (and, not so surprisingly, a dearth of fat Germans). But no Jeleni skok. I had basically given up and resigned myself to the idea that we would never find it when we turned the corner in a switchback and saw a pile of rocks with this teeny, tiny deer perched on top. It was so small it was laughable. I, of course, burst out laughing (confusing the Czech couple who were making out in the scanty shade cast by the rocks and eventually scaring them away) and I tried to get a picture that would show the puny scale of this thing. I don't think I succeeded.

The Russian church. My travel companion and I were drag-ass tired but we had this last thing on our checklist, so we went (painfully) up a hill to look at the thing, take pictures, then gratefully head back down to buy bus tickets to return to Prague. Anyway, it was a neat looking church. Thankfully, it was closed so we didn't have to climb the stairs to go up and look at it.

So, that was my trip to KV/CB. Now I need to go out and jog, get a shower, eat some more breakfast (I've already eaten one breakfast and already my stomach is growling), find the DHL office on Vaclavske Namesti to mail my airline ticket to Texas, go to the school to change my September start date and see if there are any substitutions for today, go to the H&M to try to find a pair of capris, then probably go to the C&A to try to find a pair of capris, then give up and go back home, where I will avoid prepping this weeks classes until the last possible minute when I will feel rushed and won't do as good a job as I would have liked, at which point I will tell myself that the teaching year is almost over and I will do a much better job next year because I will feel rested in September, wll the while knowing that I am just lying to myself and that I will procrastinate just as much in September as I do now.

Morning Tea and Internet News

SO, I'm drinking my morning tea and reading some news on the internet when I come across this little gem: aggressive diplomacy. I'm sure it means something to someone out there, but I've been sitting here scratching my head for the past three minutes (give or take a few seconds). Does anyone else out there agree with me that there is something fundamentally wrong, or am I just losing my mind? (Or is it too early for me to try to think too much?)

Anyway, I have some exciting news. It looks like I'm going to be working in New Jersey this summer. I've been offered an internship with ETS (Educational Testing Services), where I will be helping to prepare the writing portion of the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). It is a paid internship (wahoo!) and it is apparently a little difficult to get. So, I'm gonna spend six weeks doing that and then take three or four weeks and visit family. The main stressers are that I need to get my airline ticket changed (which is turning out to be a little more complicated than I thought it would be) and I need to find a temporary place to live in Jersey (in or near Princeton). But I have a wonderful mommy who is helping me with those things. The only bummer about the whole thing is that I am probably going to miss the Gogol Bordello concert just outside of Prague on July 4. But I figure that is a small price to pay for such a cool opportunity.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Putting off prepping lessons...

So, I'm mostly prepped for the week... I just need to prep half of my Friday class. Ugh. I'm gonna do 90 min of Business English and then do a 90 min lesson on pick-up lines (well, chat-up lines since I'm supposed to be teaching British English). Thing is, I know the little f-ers won't like anything that I bring in, so I'm totally unmotivated to do any prep for the class. So I'm posting more pictures on my 'blog instead. I went for a Prague ramble both days last weekend, so I've got some new pics. The amazing thing about Prague is that there are so many gardens. They are tucked away and almost every time I go for a walk, I find at least a little garden.

By the way, my favorite Czech word (so far) is Neparkovat. Not that that has anything to do with anything, but it is just a cool word. I still laugh when I hear To je skoda. Oh, and for some reason it completely drives my Czech teacher nuts that I pronounce futbal "football." I basically can't pronounce anything in this language, but that one just sets her off every time. Go figure. I can't even get a fix on the Czech pronunciation... something like /foatbawwwl/... but who knows.

Anyway, to the pictures...

From last weekend, actually. This is just below the Prague Castle.

From Petrin Park. There are two little (teeny tiny) lakes (really too small to be called lakes, but still bigger than puddles) in the park and this is one of them.

Inside the Strahov Monastery. I was bummed that I couldn't actually access the garden in the cloisters. Cloisters are always my favorite park of monasteries and they almost always have them off limits to visitors. Go Figure.

Ceiling in the Strahov monastery. Still not as cool as the off-limits cloister garden (okay, it was just a fountain and some grass, but I really wanted to be able to walk through the garden. I mean, what is the point of having a cloister (of having cloisters? Is it always plural? Help?) if you can't actually get to it? Damned hard to mediate through windows. Okay, I'm done now with the cloisters (cloister?).

Okay, I really need to get back to work...

...After I get a snack and some tea and water and popcorn and watch some Nero Wolfe and see if the two DVDs one of my students lent me have English subtitles...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My roommate

So, this is a video of my roommate, Zippy, schooling me on 80s pop culture. I threatened to put it on the internet and then never did... but today she asked me to add it to my blog so her friends could see it... so here it is. Hope you enjoy! I think it is just too funny.

Exploring Prague a bit more

Inside the Strahov Monastery.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! These are my super-awesome-excellent Chicken Enchiladas.

There are so many things wrong with this poster I don't even really know where to begin... click to enlarge and look in the lower left hand corner for additional laughs.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cinco de Mayo

Well, my Roomie and I celebrated Cinco de Mayo this year. Only, we celebrated on the 6th of May (because I didn't get to the grocery store early enough on the 5th). We had Chicken Enchiladas--which turned out excellent--and refried beans (I shelled out beaucoup crowns for the can, but it was worth it).

In fact, the meal was so good that we've decided to celebrate Cinco de C'erven! (the fifth of June--half Spanish, half Czech).

Well, it was raining when I got up this morning but now it has cleared up so I guess I'm going to go jogging...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

More Prague Journal for your reading pleasure

May 6, 2007 8:36am

Well, since I’m not going to go jogging today, I figured I should at least exercise my fingers and add some to my Prague journal. I was supposed to go on a long bike ride this weekend, but I decided I was too sick to go. I’m actually feeling better now (well, feeling like I will get better… not completely better yet) but I still want to take it easy today (hence, no jogging… which is a shame because I haven’t been jogging in a couple of weeks now. I have no time during the week and last weekend I was in Cesky Krumlov).

Anyway, my trip to Cesky Krumlov was pretty uneventful (a sign that I am maturing?—an uneventful trip). I decided to take a bus down (a three hour ride) Saturday morning (it is actually quicker to take the bus than the train. The train would have taken about 4 hours and have been more expensive). At the last minute I sent a text message to one of my friends, C., and asked if she would like to go along. We decided to meet Saturday morning at the bus station to take the 8am bus…

…which was completely full. Luckily, there was a bus at 9, so C. and I just walked around the Florenc bus station for about an hour (not a particularly exciting place… a little run down).

The bus ride down was uneventful and we arrived in Cesky Krumlov a little after noon (and we even managed to get off at the right place—truly amazing as none of the bus stops along the way had signs). We set out in the direction we thought the youth hostel might be… and found it with no problems.

The girl in the youth hostel spoke English with an American accent so I asked her where she was from. Minnesota. Ah. She seemed a little out of it—like we had woken her up from a nap. I guess I’m used to odd people, having worked in Takoma Park… and this girl was just your run of the mill New Age Vegetarian who is in a complete daze most of the time (lack of Protein?). So I didn’t realize how strange she must have appeared to C., who is from Portugal, until later on C. asked me if all people from Minnesota were like that. I then explained about our New Age Vegetarians who generally walk around in a daze (lack of Protein?). I don’t think I did a particularly good job of explaining, as C. still seemed a little confused, but I guess you just have to have spent some time surrounded by these folks to just be able to take their strangeness for granted.

Anyway, we spent Saturday walking around Cesky Krumlov. The hostel had a television and some Czech movies (with English subtitles), so Saturday evening we decided to increase our familiarity with Czech culture and watch a film. I chose… which turned out to be a mistake. The film was about an airport baggage handler who tries to get back with his ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, his neighbors pay him to watch them have sex, his Mom goes mad, his Dad starts sleeping with an artist 30 years his junior, and his ex-girlfriend confesses to having had sex with over 30 random men in less than a month. It was described as a romantic comedy by the hostel staff (who had written a convenient guide to the Czech movies), but I would be inclined to describe it was a mess. Both C. and I were like, ‘what is this crap?”

On Sunday we hiked up a hill to an old church. It was so odd because I’ve gotten used to thinking of the Czech Republic as an atheist country, yet there were small shrines all along the path to the church. They were old, obviously, but they reminded me more of something I would have seen in Mexico rather than something I would have expected to find in Europe. After we reached the church, we meandered along some meadows and returned to the town for lunch. At the hostel we started talking to another traveler, M., (from Florida) who had just finished an assistantship in France. She and I swapped stories about it (she was up in Lille teaching high schoolers) and C., M., and I decided to go for another walk through Cesky Krumlov. (We did a lot of walking through the town and taking pictures because those were the cheapest activities. I had wanted to go kayaking or canoeing down the river that ran through the town, but when we looked at the prices, they were prohibitively expensive… almost $20 for a half an hour in a canoe, which would have been a rip-off even in the States).

Sunday evening we watched another Czech movie. C. picked this time, and did a (slightly) better job than I had done. This movie was about a restaurant owner who thinks he is Hitler and serves endangered animals (and human hands) to his guests, a boy who likes to dress up in his sister’s clothes and his sister who tries to kill him, a man who is on a “Candid Camera” show who films his daughter… um… doing something with a dog, and a couple of bumbling heroes who try to set it all right. (Again, classified as a comedy and again, not receiving many laughs from the viewing audience... and yes, it was actually slightly better than the previous evening's film...). As a result of my Czech film viewing experiences, I can cease feeling guilty about the crap that Hollywood exports (this was basically the same reaction I had to French music and US pop a la Britney Spears).

Monday morning we got up early and caught the bus to Ceske Budejovice. From Ceske Budejovice we caught a bus to Trebon. Trebon was a cute little walled city, but we were carrying our bags and were a little tired, so we went back to Ceske Budejovice after a few hours. Oh wait, I need to talk about lunch at Trebon. C. and I had heard good things about a couple of seafood restaurants. As we are both from places near the ocean and were currently living in a land-locked country, we were definitely experiencing a dietary fish deficit, and we decided to check the prices on the seafood restaurants. After deciding that they were a little steep, we ambled over to an outdoor beer garden. Okay, our first clue should have been that, although it was high noon, NO ONE was eating. Our second clue should have been the appearance of the cook (who looked like he had absolutely no problem skipping his weekly shower to go do something else). With the help of a dictionary and our own optimism, we placed our orders. C., unlucky girl, got raw meat on rye. I lucked out with orange grease in the shape of a sausage. It was disgusting, but we both ate it. After that, we set out to find a grocery store (she needed more food and I needed something to soak up the grease a bit and keep me from barfing). We found our grocery store and then, more critically, we found some ice cream.

Anyway, back in Ceske Budejovice, we headed to the old part of town to see the famous Samson Fountain and the slightly less famous Black Tower. With both of the monuments photographed, we turned around and schlepped back to the bus station to await the next bus to Prague.

On the bus ride back, we wound up sitting in front of a group of Brazilian teenagers. C. was happy to hear Portuguese… until she started paying attention to the content of the conversation. The kids obviously thought that no one could understand them… and C. spent a three hour bus ride having to listen to the sexual exploits of a group of teenage boys. (I spent the bus ride sleeping).

So, that was my trip to Cesky Krumlov. As I promised, it wasn’t too exciting… but that is a good thing, I suppose. I guess I’ve just gotten so used to having things go—well, not wrong, but not always right—that I almost feel a little—not disappointed, but a little perplexed—when everything goes off without a hitch. But then again, the cold that I had been fighting since my return from Poland finally caught up with me, so… I guess I can’t (can? can’t? can?) complain…

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Trebon town square.

Outside the walls of Trebon.

Outside the walls of Trebon.

Right outside Trebon is the Schwarzenberska hrobka (mausoleum).

Fountain in the castle courtyard.

Ceske Budejovice

Narrow Street in Ceske Budejovice.

Main town square in Ceske Budejovice. The fountain is famous--it is of Samson.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Drugs, Flu, Doctors, and Pharmacies

Nothing quite as alienating and isolating as being sick in a foreign country where one does not speak the language (I don't even know how to say "I am sick and quite possible dying" in Czech).

I'm not a big believe in taking lots of medicine. I know that the only cure for a cold or the flu is sleep, hot tea, and more sleep. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of suffering through a cold or the flu... so I decided yesterday that I should find the Czech equivalent of "Thermaflu" (a mixture of decongestant, pain-reliever, and sleep aid--I especially need the sleep aid as I have not actually been able to get much sleep recently). So, I commenced my search.

I remembered from France that OTC drugs are not the easiest things to find in Europe. I also remembered to look for the green cross. I ALSO remembered that drugs are not actually sold in drug stores in Europe (I think I can avoid commenting on this at the moment). So, yesterday I found a green cross and went in the store... only to discover that everything was behind the counter. I tried to find a box that I recognized... but quite frankly, it all looked like diet pills. Fine, I'll try another store.

Today I went into a different green cross store (can't call it a drug store, remember). I actually got up the nerve to try to talk to the guy there (he spoke some English). I described my symptoms and hoped that the word decongestant was the same in Czech. He said he could only sell me some herbal remedy--for anything stronger I would need to see the doctor.

Now, herbal remedies are fine and dandy--for some people. The thing is, I've been raised in the US, with US drugs. Our drugs are pretty powerful, so chances are my body is not going to react when faced with a piece of a plant. In other words, chewing on some willow bark is not gonna do anything but give me a few splinters.

But of course, I don't see the point in visiting the doctor for a cold/the flu (I'm pretty sure it is the flu at this point). The doctor is just going to say that I need rest and beverages. Or, as I have a tendency to not actually run a fever when I am sick (not completely true--I either don't have a fever at all, or I have a fever of at least 103.. but usually closer to 105), the doctor will decide I am malingering and yell at me (happened in the Army--right before I collapsed with a (surprise) >104 temp. And for some reason, when I think of Herr Comrade Doktor, I think of the military... go figure). So, yeah, I figure I just need to make it through my classes tomorrow, then I can get home and figure out how to make myself sleep.

Meanwhile, I'm drinking a lot of ginger tea and I've nearly finished my small stash of Motrin.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Prague Journal

April 2, 2007

I feel like I’ve been wiping my ass with paper towels for three months now. I can’t wait to go back to the States this summer and give my poor butt a break.

Duben, dvacet tře, 2007

Ahoj! Jmenuju se Justine. Jsem učitelka angličtiny… mam moc prace. Jsem z Ameriky, jsem Američanka. Mam kočka, ale neni tady. Moje kočka je z Ameriky taky. Rad čte každy den. Vařim každy den taky, ale nerada vařim. Nerada hraju volejbal… nikdy nehraju volejbal! Studuju česky…

Moje maminka se jmenuje Pat. Je profesorka. Je chtra a energecka. Muj tatinek se jmenuje Rob. Rad čte a posloucha hudbu Jazz. Mam mladša sestru. Moje sestra se Jmenuje Rowan. Je krasna. Rada čte a tancuje.

So, yeah, that was my attempt at Czech. Not too impressive, but… well, I’ve only been here for four months and I’ve been studying Czech for less than three months, so… oh well. I am beginning to feel like I will never learn to speak this language (well, not that I ever really thought I would. I guess I figured I’d change my view once I started learning some Czech… but no dice. I’m still convinced that a group of people got together and decided to invent the world’s hardest language).

Anyway, tonight I’m going to a friend’s birthday party. I don’t really want to go—it doesn’t start until 8:30, it is all the way across Prague, and I have to teach early tomorrow morning… and I feel drained still, but… I figure I should at least make an appearance.

I don’t know why I feel so drained. Today was a little better, but I basically have spent three and a half days on my rear end, doing nothing. I felt completely drained all last week (hard to teach when one is feeling drained). I’ve got a four day weekend coming up and I’m trying to figure out what to do and where to go… but I’m afraid I will still feel drained and I won’t have the energy to do anything. Ugh. My plan right now is just to go down to Cesky Krumlov and Cesky Budeovicka (about three hours south of Prague) and bum around for a couple of days.


Where the heck are all the Brussel Sprouts??

If Brussel Sprouts are a European food (, then where are they all? I love Brussel Sprouts (I was about to abbreviate but decided not to) but I haven't had any since December. I've been living on Zucchini, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Lettuce, and Carrots. Oh, and frozen Green Beans. I miss, miss, miss Brussel Sprouts and Sugar Snap Peas... and Peas (which I can occasionally find in the freezer in stores here). In fact, a lot of what I eat is occasionally missing from the shelves at the grocery stores. Case in point: ground beef. I haven't seen ground beef in a store for over three weeks now. I really wanted some Granny Soup for this week, so I finally had to buy the (nasty) beef/pork mix-it is cheaper than ground beef, but it is a lot fattier. I've discovered that I like Kohlrabi--I may have to start eating Kohlrabi sticks instead of carrot sticks. It is odd though--I was researching Kohlrabi and I realized that most of my veggies are members of the cabbage family. I have yet to buy an actual head of cabbage because I don't really know what to do with it (cabbage soup? Ugh.) I should learn, though, as it is super cheap--about 8 crowns for a head (that is less that 50 cents).

Anyway... I canceled my afternoon classes today so I could stay home and rest. Been guzzling tea (and granny soup) and I think I am feeling a bit better. The rash was one of those sun rashes I occasionally get (I bought sunscreen but the strongest I could find was 16--laughable). It is gone from around my neck, but I think I got some on my scalp (first time that had happened--it is the bangs--I forgot that having bangs means that part of my scalp is exposed to the sun). Anyway, I think it will take longer to go away because of my hair. Basically, for a sun rash I just have to keep EVERYTHING away from it for awhile--lotion, clothes, hands, soap, etc. But I still need to wash my hair (and even if I didn't do that, the rash would have oily hair against it--not necessarily an improvement).

Ugh... like you all care. But I figured that since I had referenced it, I should report on it (mainly for family members who keep track of that sort of thing).

Anyway, I've made plans to go on a two-day bike trip this weekend... I really want to go (and I basically invited myself along so I don't want to back out at the last minute), but I am not going to force myself if I still feel sick.

Meanwhile, back to watching 24. I think I have six hours left.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cesky Krumlov

Here are a couple of pics of Cesky Krumlov--I will post more later (I promise).