Saturday, August 23, 2008

Adventures in Netherlands, Belgium and Beyond

I have to make this quick – I have my good buddy Tony D. here and we’ve got a few things to do today so here’s the short of my trip to Holland and Belgium:

Started off thinking I was going to sleep in the airport so I could catch my early morning plane – but last minute I figured out how to take night connections at 3 AM. So I do it but end up in an unfamiliar are and couldn’t find my transfer – and still ended up taking a cab to the airport that cost over half the price of my ticket…Oh well I’m going on vacation!

Fly to Holland and arrived - after a long morning – still earlier than I would want to wake up – and a little sick. But this was my vacation and a trip that I was looking forward to for too long!

So I wander around Amsterdam for like 5 hours, almost non stop walking since I didn’t want to stop to spend any money – tight budget for this trip. But I got to see a ton of Amsterdam – beautiful city. At like 1, I met up with this girl who showed me her favorite cafĂ© – one of the cooler I’ve ever been too – and then we went to a museum outside of town that her friend worked at. It was all about the change in politics and social structure and how architecture was the driving force in the change - SUPER interesting and something that most tourists would never see. Then we met up with her friend who worked there and got some traditional Dutch food and after talking for a while they said that every Wednesday – the day I happened to be there – they cook food together with another friend and they invited me to come…OKAY!

Her friend lived in a shipping container but it was actually temporary student housing – they had made a little village of apartment buildings from it. So unique.

Note: The weather throughout that day and the trip was so random – I always needed sunglasses, an umbrella and a jacket. Rain, heat, sun, threat of rain – it was nuts.

Then they walked me to the train station through their favorite part of Amsterdam and it was probably my favorite too – really nice and along the water…like most of the city.

That was my most action packed day – then I took a late train to Rotterdam and stayed with a guy for 5 days. I didn’t plan on staying that long but he was so nice and generous. Over the time that I was there we saw like 5 or 6 cities, a famous Dutch amusement park, the damn that closes the river Rein, a Dutch bath, and ate dinner with another family. (I know that description was a lot shorter than that of Amsterdam but this was just way to much to even try to lay out. An incredible person to stay with and some great talks about life and traveling.

Then I headed off to Belgium to see a friend I had made earlier this summer in Krakow, who then visited me in Prague. (These plane tickets for this trip cost less than my train tickets to Krakow.) So I got to Belgium and Thomas was still busy so I had some time to wander. That was nice to see Antwerp and I have to say is probably one of the most wonderful cities I have ever been too. Beautifully preserved architecture that isn’t perfect or fully restored, just left at this romantic state that took hundreds of years to achieve. Its not too big and not too small and I think some day there’s just enough room for me.

But seriously, HUGE beautiful church in the center right next to my favorite pub in Antwerp. Great little place that serves just about every beer that Belgium makes – that’s an overstatement but they have a lot. Having a beer with Thomas was like going to school – he knew so much about so many – and I loved hearing about them all while sampling a few a long the way. (Don’t worry family – remember I had a low budget – nothing out of hand). I got to meet a lot of his friends too and hang out at his… student housing type place – that will take an explanation in person – and we went to a free movie a long the river one night – part of a summer long festival called Summer of Antwerp. - - - - great city and a great time.

Over all a Great trip – and this is only a fraction of the stories. But I am headed home soon and you can all hear more in person. Keep checking this though – I might post once more before I get back and once I am back I will do something about those pictures I promised all summer – slow internet stopped me from doing that here – sorry.

So keep checkin’ in and I will talk to you all soon – I need to go show Tony all the highlights of the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

No time to witty titles - Just read

Ok – so since last week… again not much has happened. At least not much that makes for lengthy stories – although it seems that I manage to turn any story into something lengthy.

I am sitting on a train right now and enjoying the trip back to Prague (don’t have internet but I am pre-writing this on my computer to save some time). I have been in Budejovice for the past 5 days or so doing pretty much nothing. It was great.

Most of my friends are traveling right now – nearly every Czech takes a minimum of 2 solid weeks of vacation each summer – national minimum is 4 weeks throughout the year. Wouldn’t that be nice? But my friends being gone gave me time to spend with some of my host families who did happen to be in town either right before or after their vacations abroad.

For those of you who don’t know all the super specifics of my exchange the last time I lived here, I never actually lived in the city center, but always within the reach of city busses – and I am so happy. I always landed in one of the many small and romantic towns that plan themselves along the side roads that jut out from the main city. Mainly when I’m back now I stay in Doubravice with one of my host moms and her son. It’s on top of a hill and I can see most of the city from the balcony. Beautiful place to step out of the city and enjoy yourself for a while. I had a great time spending a lot of evenings with neighbors, cooking some of the best meat I have had in a long time (not your fault dad, locally-raised meat marinated for a day and then cooked over an open fire with friends and beer is tough to beat). It was nice just to relax.

Now I am headed back to Prague – a day later than anticipated since some friends I hadn’t been able to meet with yet just got back to town and talked me into skipping my train so we had more than an hour to spend together – an hour to compensate for three years of absence doesn’t quite cut it. Glad I stayed but a lot still to do in Prague today.

It’s my turn to clean the flat – hope that goes alright. Then a lot of things to prepare for my trip and I don’t even think that I’ll get to sleep in my own bed tonight. I took a 6AM flight to Holland tomorrow because it was so cheap – then I remembered that the metro doesn’t run that early and I don’t know if night busses can get me there and a taxi would cost as much as my plane ticket. It looks like I might just have to sleep at the airport so I can check in at 4 or 5. I’ve heard of people getting stuck at airports and having to sleep there but who starts their trip like that? This will be an interesting trip as a whole.

Like I said – I am good at turning a whole week of nothing into a whole lengthy post. Maybe I just naturally write proportionally to my height. But MAKE SURE to tune in for what’s up next week when I tell all about my Adventures in Netherlands, Belgium and Beyond.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Its good to be back

Still don’t know if anyone checks this anymore – I just seem to get worse and worse at updating. I have been busy but its not so many fantastic tales of near death experience or outrageous chance-happenings.

After the last time I wrote, I spent most of a fairly quiet week here in Prague. I found some great new places in my exploring and met some awesome new people who I really connected with. I love that. 2 of the people where from Idaho and they were so cool. They came to Prague for 2 days and stayed for a week. I tell everyone to do that but no one actually does – maybe that’s why I liked these people – they have good taste in location.

Then, I had been talking back and forth with some people in Ceske Budejovice where I used to live and thinking about when I’d go as if I’m so busy I could hardly get away – then I realized I’m being dumb and just went. I planned for about 3 days and stayed for almost a week.

This is possibly the highlight of my summer – By good fortune all my closest friends happened to be in Budejovice for the summer and I got to see almost all of them. Almost non-stop for the whole time I was there I just got to talk to them, catch up, see the band that some of them are in now, and see a number a places I attended as often as school. It was incredible and so little has changed – the city, the shops, the people. That could be taken as bad, but I can tell the people are wiser and they have changed some for the better, but the part of them that I love is still there as it was. I am so glad to still have these friends. I’ve been back in Prague for about 2 days and I am already heading back for a concert and some more time there. I can’t wait.

I also secured the plan for my good buddy Tony to come over for the last week that I am here – that will be a blast. I am going to drag him back south to Budejovice so he can see where I used to live the people there. Then we’ll spend some time in Cesky Krumlov (google that town – it’s worth it) and Prague.

You can only show so much in a 4x6 and only tell so much through blogs and stories, so I am glad that I finally have a friend as good as Tony coming that I can show and share this with. I am really looking forward to that. Its too bad that when caitlin was here we didnt have enough time to head down that way - I'd really like to share this with all my friends.

Lastly, by way of more good fortune, I bought plane tickets to Holland and home from Belgium. Best part is – the first time I looked I found them at a great price – I was going to pay about $50 each way. Then I left for a week and came back and they were almost double one way and triple the other. I didn’t know what to do! The next day I search again on the same site and they dropped them to about $40 each way – which means almost the whole ticket is “tax and fees” and my fare is about a dollar.

I’ll be traveling between the two over a course of a week. I made a friend in Krakow when I was there and then he came to see me in Prague – I am returning the favor by visiting him in Belgium, hopefully he’ll travel a bit with me Holland too. It’s good to have friends all over. Makes traveling much more exciting than the gawking at artfully crafted stone and cement.

Some good stories should come out of that trip. Hope you guys tune-in to hear about it later.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I finally have a free minute - hope you have two

OK – life is coming back down but not in a bad way.

Caitlin left today – had to wake up at like 7 to get her to the airport – I think she had a good trip but was ready to get back home. We did a lot of stuff in the two weeks that she was here.

But where I left off in my last blog - - - It was dark and rainy and we were in the deepest part of the Viennese wilderness --- not exactly.
We had just gotten to my good friend Vera’s flat in Vienna. A nice little place that was perfect for the sum three of us to fit in. We saw so much in Vienna – it’s such a huge city with so many massive buildings. It’s the same population as Prague – BUT ITS MUCH BIGGER. Or feels it anyway.
Highlight of Vienna had to be the hoerigger (no idea how to spell that) but it’s a place that I was talking about at the end of the last post I had. But it was up in the hills just outside of Vienna and right by Beethoven’s old house (I’m pretty sure it was Beethoven). Such a cool place, great food, and great company. Possibly the highlight of the trip for me.
Then that overnight train to Krakow. The nicest sleeper car I have ever been on. I even got a prepackaged breakfast croissant and a bag with a towel and soap in it – plus free bottled water. I couldn’t have dreamed of so much on a train over here.
But Krakow is great. I’ve been there before and I was excited to go back. I went to Auschwitz again though – so Caitlin could see it. Could have done without that but I didn’t take the tour this time (but I suggest everyone take the 3 hour tour the first time they go) and so I got to spend some more time wandering there by myself. Bit of a different experience.
I almost met some very interesting guys at the hostel that night – one of them is even coming to see me in Prague this weekend. It was cool to see some of the city with such a mix of people from so many places. Makes me just want to keep traveling and go to every country I hear of though – it’s an issue.
The next day we went to Zilina in Slovakia – another place that I was going to for the second time this summer (by the way – anyone traveling over in that area needs to take at least some day trains – the countryside between the borders of Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia… Incredible). We got there and luckily – since nothing was confirmed – met my friend who is a rotary student there from Pennsylvania. It was like one of her last days and all her friends were on vacation – I felt so bad knowing that she had to go home soon but I could certainly relate (sigh).
But yeah, the point of going to Zilina was just to end the trip with something beautiful and quiet in the mountains – and something a bit more traditional and interesting that Bratislava. It worked out well.
Then an awful train ride home to Prague. Its only 6 hours, so we didn’t think we would get beds on this train to save money. Here’s how it went –
We got reservations instead of beds thinking that would save us from any trouble finidng a seat. Our cabin already had 4 sleeping people in it though, and that didn’t leave much room – so we braved the halls and tried to find a new place to settle.
First we get a cabin by ourselves and think - ooh lucky, we’ll la down and go to sleep. Normally that’s no issue and everyone leaves you alone then. First comes drunk guy number one – he starts giving me a hard time about how we didn’t reserve the whole cabin so we cant do that, then sits down and talks for 20 minutes while we sit and try to ignore him. Then number two – but he’s only there for a second. Then two leaves and comes back a while later with and older even drunker guy – that was it – we left.
After standing in the hall and the end of a car for some time we find a nice spot by someone our age. Then he leaves and an older woman comes – possibly drunk as well. She sets her bag on her lap and every time she dozes off it slips through and smacks on the floor, startling her awake – and every time, it happened she thought we were in Prague – it happened at least every five minutes from the time she got on the train – we were 5 hours from Prague. Then a 4th guy comes, quite sober, and that’s not so bad – four people total is livable. Then “SMACK” the bad hits and the old woman gets so excited about our supposed arrival to Prague, she even goes to wait at the door at the end of the car. That just freed up her seat to be taken by two large campers who just slam open the door and don’t even ask if the seats are free, but say “these are free right?” and then sit down with there larger-than-average backpacks – some above us and some having to rest between me and the man now facing me. 3 hours to Prague. Back comes the old woman.

This was beyond cartoonish. We got home and slept a long time.

My friend Chrisina was staying with us too for her last couple days in Prague before she flew back. We had a good time seeing things for the few days we were here and say a lot of the city. There were a few more things we would have liked to do but I guess you always have to leave enough of a snack that it’s worth coming back. That goes for me and Caitlin. Funny thing is the more you do the more you hear about – maybe that’s why I meet so many travelers or so many generations – once you start, you never quite finish.

Kind of like reading this blog – you always think the next paragraph will be the last, and then I have more to say. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Travel and vacation are two seperate things

Sure it’s great to travel - but I cannot wait to get pack to Prague where I can sleep in, wake up, go to a park, and fall asleep again!

I apologize for not writing in so long. I hope that some of you are still reading this. About two weeks ago when I wrote last, I was heading off to a film festival in Karlovy Vary - beautiful town spread like fingers through these valleys in the hills of northwest Czech Republic - google it. That was really great and you wouldn't believe who I bumped into - literally --- Robert Deniro.

He was one of the special guests at the festival and a friend that I was with loves him. We had time one day so we walked through the town toward his hotel joking that he might open his window and we'd catch a glimpse... but he didn't. So as we're walking back - my head was a bit above the world as usual and in my aloof state I walked right into the man as he was shopping for postcards.

Honestly, I don't see what the big deal about him is. He was wearing saggy khaki pants and looked like he had just woken up - he's just as plain as I am. But at the special showing of New York, New York that night he gave a speech and everyone else thought that was pretty special - he didn't even seem like he wanted to be there. "Uh yeah, thanks for having me...blah blah blah... this film is old and so am I [everybody laughs] - Enjoy" (Not an exact quote). Anyhow the film festival was good.

I was home for one day when I had to rush off to the airport to pick up my friend Caitlin from the states who I am currently traveling with. We were only in Prague for the night and then the next day off to Budapest.

After a long hot train ride with more people than I have ever been squished with - we spent only two short but amazing days in Budapest with a guy that she has meet once but stayed in contact with named Gergos. His dad rents a flat downtown which was empty so we got to stay there for free. The first night he gave us a driving tour in a 1972 Trabant (you have to google that). And the visit only got better from there - our visit to that city was far too short.

Next, to Bratislava. Although I have been to Slovakia a lot, I have never made it to Bratislava... This must be why - Maybe it would be better with someone from there, but my visit matched up with other reviews that I have gotten from friends. It's surprisingly small and not over crowded with tourists, but there’s really not much to do. WE arrived at 6 one night and saw just a bit of the city - pretty dead but we figured it was because it was a Sunday night - not much changed Monday. Maybe someday I'll give it a second chance.

Then we came to Vienna! My friend Vera lives here and has a nice little flat and is an incredible host. I have been here a few times before but I just love coming back - too bad it’s a bit expensive - good thing I get to sleep for free here. Tonight we had dinner outside of a vineyard - ate some incredible food and tried some great wine. Tomorrow it’s back to the city to enjoy some more coffeehouses and see a bit more before an overnight train to Krakow, Poland.

I think Caitlin is enjoying herself too - overall a great trip in my opinion. Sorry this was long and I'll get some photos up as soon as I'm back in Prague next week. We still have to go to Krakow and visit the High Tatry Mountains in the North of Slovakia (the part that I know I love).
Again, sorry I haven't written more lately, but this traveling is taking it right out of me and I am in need of a vacation. If you're still reading, I promise I'll give you more to read soon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Crazy is moving from a state of mind to a way of life

I finished my CELTA course after crazy week back from Poland. It’s kind of sad to see it finish though. I liked the people in my group a lot – kindred spirits you could say for the most part. I learned as much from many of them as I did from my course instructors. Certainly got some good ideas on how I might be living some years down the road. (don’t worry mom and dad – not in a box, just happily). Slowly they’ve been leaving Prague over the past weekend and week, and now there are only two more left who I will see again today and then fly away tomorrow. The good news is, I can visit a number of them across the world at a later time, and I certainly hope to do so.

Saturday morning I moved into a new flat. Nice guys, I have a big room, but I don’t live alone. Could be worse but I live in the center, perfect location, and I pay almost nothing. I used to live in a great area, but a little ways from the center, and in one month there I paid 2 times what two months will cost me here. Having a roommate is worth it. Plus I have internet here – big plus.

July is going to be incredibly busy, so I decided Sunday that it was then or not for a long time, so I went to Ceske Budejovice where I used to live. You have no idea how incredible it feels to leave for so long and just be so accepted back into this city. I meet with my second host family for lunch and spent the afternoon there. Boy how those kids grow up so fast - Milos is nearly twice as big and Dominika is so much older - she'll be driving in just a couple of years. Seriously though, I can’t even describe this trip. 

Then I went to town to meet an old friend who - glad I went when I did – is going to Denmark for the summer in two days. We meet for dinner and he convinced me to stay in town over night and sleep at his house. Unfortunate that I didn’t bring spar clothes but I am glad I stayed. Then the next morning I was getting texts from other friends who wanted me to stay longer with them but I couldn’t because I had no clothes and already had a return train ticket that would expire the next day – but they’re coming to Prague Friday so we still get to see each other.

Everyday I am getting into contact with more people and I am so happy that they are still glad to see me after all this time.

This week is pretty calm, enjoying a last day with my CELTA friends, meeting a friend of a friend who is coming through town, then meeting my friends from Budejovice before going to the film festival this weekend. Then I get back from that for a day and Caitlin comes from the states to travel for two weeks.

Unfortunate that I couldn’t earn more money this summer, but this would make one heck of a MasterCard commercial.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

things are calming down but only for the moment

I apologize for not writing more lately, but the last week and some days have been a whirlwind – but a productive one that managed clear up a lot of loose ends.

I am pretty much done with my course. I taught my last lesson today and handed in my last assignment on Monday so all I have left is to show up for the next 3 days and I passed. Hooray!

I went to Poland this past weekend and Krakow is beautiful and I have a weird sort of luck lately that seems to put me at the center of all the biggest festivals. In Zilina, Slovakia there was Nove Mesto to celebrate the town and in Krakow there was a celebration of the summer solstice so the streets were covered in people late at night and the banks of the river, all levels of the castle, and a large barge in the water where covered with people. Jamiroqui played – a band from Great Britain who you might not know, but if you’ve seen Napoleon Dynamite – it’s the band that does the song for the famous dance seen. Nice concert that finished with fireworks.

I know I don’t put up many pictures, but google Krakow and take a look – its nice.

Also, I went to Auschwitz. It probably saved this trip from being one of the worst ever. I can’t tell you how many things went wrong this weekend, but its really worth remembering so I can tell you the whole story sometime.

Anyhow – it didn’t save the trip because it was so wonderful, but for all of the miserable traveling, the hot weather, sore feet on a long walk, and starving from having no food Saturday when I went to the camp – my problems were all quite small. Although the complaints crossed my mind, what I was seeing grossly overshadowed my minor discomforts. I was very disappointed in those who I heard express those things in a way that seemed to ask for sympathy – that was not the place to get it.

I walked by a wall of pictures with information about a number of the people who had been there. Without even thinking, simple math enabled me to figure out the number of weeks or months that most of them survived there. Think hard before you choose to visit a place like this, because for many, those who would rather not think about this for a long time and accept the effect that it will/should certainly have on them – the history channel will do.

Sorry for the depressing notes, but I promise that the horrible things make me appreciate the seemingly mundane ones far more.

I move to my new flat this weekend and I am very excited. The people there are some late twenty Czech guys and they’re very nice and incredibly interesting. I’ll tell you all more of that when I know. July is going to fly by and I am gone almost the whole time, but I will be sure to keep you all updated.

Hope all is well at home and the rain hasn’t put anyone reading this out of home. 

Friday, June 13, 2008

Just keep swimming

Second week is done! I am exactly half way through the course having taught half of my required lessons and already completing two out of the four written assignments.

Still, next week is practically my last week of the course. I have all except for one of my remaining lessons to teach then and I must do both of my remaining assignments – I have planned a trip to Auschwitz for next weekend and will be gone from the moment my classes end Friday to late Sunday night. Not much time in there for work since I’d rather not take my computer with me. Last assignment is due that Monday. 

My travel partners are actually some very nice people I have met recently in Prague. I am really excited for this trip (realizing that it might not be the most cheerful one - concentration camp and al). In the first week of July there is a famous film festival - lots of celebrities and such -  in a town called Karlovy Vary and I plan to go to that with my new travel partners as well.

Just received my first assignment back and I am a part of a minority who does not need to resubmit. That is a huge relief going into the weekend. I have a lesson to plan for Monday when I will be teaching a new level of students and I have little to no idea of what to expect from them. Rgh it is really difficult to plan when you know so little about their ability level.

STILL – I have little to complain about at the moment.

I seem to be dealing with the stress of the course much better than many of my peers – that is not to say that I am doing better, I simply stay more relaxed. Maybe still being in college back in the states is helping me adapt to this type of class-all-day-study-most-of-the-night kind of demand.

I still manage to find some time to enjoy myself and make new friends.

Alright- a bit brief, vague, but a good summary of my life over the past while. Do not get me wrong – this course is hard (especially the wooden chairs I spend 10-12 hours a day in for my classes). Only two weeks left though- obviously short and I am trying hard to taste the sweet.

More soon.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The heat is least for now

Finally the heat is off – literally and figuratively. This heat wave that has been killing me the past 2 weeks is gone – very suddenly. I almost want to wear a jacket outside now sometimes. That’s a big shift from sweating non stop anywhere in the sun. (or up in front of my students) And I get a 2 day break from class.

So I guess I didn’t expect this to be easy, but this is a beast. It’s my first weekend, I have already taught two lessons, I have two more this next week, and two large assignments due. Yes, this qualifies as an intensive course.

My first lesson was… rough. It wasn’t horrible, but I certainly left room for myself to improve. So – on the second lesson I did. It was so much better than the first. And my second lesson was a grammar lesson which I think is way harder but it really went well. Still, I can do better. I teach again Monday and I already feel pretty comfortable with my lesson plan. No/few worries.

The people in my class (like the other teachers) are pretty nice, some really good teachers. Others, seem like they are in kindergarten – honestly you wouldn’t believe it if you met them. I found out this week, and so did everyone else I guess, that I am easily the youngest person in my class of 12: I ended up putting my birthday on the board for an activity I did with the students and everyone of the other teachers in training was pretty surprised – half because my birthday is this Sunday and half because I am only going to be 20 (it was funny to watch their jaws drop). I think the second youngest is 23 and after that 25. I don’t feel that young here – just weird when I say that I am going back to school after this course.

Got to know some of my classmates pretty well – REALLY interesting people. Friday we went out for dinner and then to town for a little bit, but pretty much everyone has way too much work to do this weekend. That kind of squashes anyone’s hopes of staying out too late. Still, I met some interesting people in town and had some good conversations. I am almost the only one in my class who knows Czech and it’s a big plus here for me in the city. Though, I still have room to improve on that too.

I had a friend from Minneapolis hear through the grapevine that I was living in Prague – and he just happened to be heading this way. I let him crash here one night and it was fun to go out to dinner with him and share some of what I know about the place with someone else. Its convenient to have friends just placed around the world. I also got some good tips for when I am roaming more later this summer. I am looking forward to later this summer when I get to do that. I’ve got a couple ideas rolling around in my head that I think might make for some great travel plans.

Well, I am not sure what else to say. It was a long week, more of the same ahead. I am sure my parents are glad to hear that I must be getting back to my homework now. And to all of my friends with summer jobs that take up a lot of time - just be glad you're not getting HOMEWORK!

Monday, June 2, 2008

I am SO glad that I chose CELTA

For those of you that don’t know much about Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificates, there are a number of them. The two big ones are the Cambridge Certificate and the Trinity Certificate – I chose the Cambridge CELTA.  

Only since I have arrived here did I find out that pretty much any where in the European Union you must have the CELTA or you will not be considered. I hear this from almost every current teacher I find – not just the ones teaching at my school, but ones that I have met from others, and ones that are now taking the CELTA course so they can get a better job even after years of teaching. I did not really find that information online so I am glad that I seem to have made the right choice.

Started classes today… WHOA am I back in school or what. This is the longest class day I have had since high school. And I think those days may have been shorter!

We covered a ton of material, I observed a class being taught, and I took a Hungarian language lesson. That was actually really useful since I will be going to Hungary later this summer, but the point of it was to remind us what it feels like to be in a class where we understand NOTHING. It worked but it was fun too. (learning was “fun too!” -  I should be on commercial)

Tomorrow, I will be teaching 40 minutes of the same class that I observed today. The people in the class know that they are not always being taught by qualified teachers (hopefully near-able, just not qualified) but they pay less for the class because of it. I was handed my topic and a choice of materials. That helps but it will still take a bit of preparation tonight.

Alright well off to work. Those of my friends who are working for the summer – I now feel your pain…for a while, then I’ll be back to traveling. Still, I know that this will be worth the work.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Not having internet is hard!

Ok - I owe everyone an apology. The only photo I have given you so far is not a very good one. You probably all think - Why did he put up a dark photo taken at 4 in the morning. 

Well that wasn't the plan. It was supposed to be the first of many but its SO SLOW to load photos on the internet in a cafe (actually KFC right now - come get a coffee and hop on - its the best internet around). So anyway, that one photo is all the further I got. Here are a few more:

This is Zilina, Slovakia during the festival Nove Mesto, celebrating the town being 800 years old. It was early then so thats not even many people like there was later on. Beautiful city in the mountains. The wall to the right is part of the rail kind of to this gorgeous church. To stand on the lower square there and see the people line the zig-zagged steps to the church at night during the concerts was awesome!

This (look down) is me at the fountain on the upper square holding all my stuff. Little shops in the back where they sell the handmade things - wood, steel, clay, porcelain, jewelry, clothes, ANYTHING that they can make. Really cool stuff.
I don't know why this is all underlined...

<- This is the daytime view from my flat. A bit nicer than the other shot I have up. What you see is not the main part of Prague but its still nice. I spent a good chunk of time on my balcony lately. Its good to have. 
Thats  new TV tower in the back there and if you could see it closer it has bronze babies crawling up and down it. A Czech artist thought that was pretty cool - I guess its gives it some spice

Ok I hope that this is better. I'll try to have more pics more regularly from now on. Have a good one!


I can't tell if life is picking up or settling down

This past week could easily be described as a whirlwind and it’s only the beginning of so much.

Like I said earlier, I have become so incredibly productive here. This is the first time I have ever lived a lone and it has freed me from distractions and most of my dependencies. I was able to get so much work done in my flat and the city before I went to Slovakia it was awesome.

My course is beginning tomorrow and my rolling worries have simmered to a kind of pugnacious confidence. I realize that pride comes before a fall but at the moment I am just really excited to kick this course’s butt.

So lately – Thanks to having wonderful friends who care very much about me, I went on a scavenger hunt through Prague! The start of my mission was sent to me by email – I was to go to a certain hotel and receive a package from the concierge. More instructions would be there. I followed all the directions, got some really great stuff, and meet some really nice people. What an experience. Its always good to have great friends.

I went to Slovakia to see a friend over the past few days and had a great time. Besides the metro here, it was my first train ride back in Central Europe and I was in heaven. I rode with an old Slovak man and two people traveling back to Hungary after working in the North of the Czech Republic for some time. Interesting people.

It has been a while since I was in Zilina and I was so happy to go back. It’s easily my favorite city in Slovakia – having friends there makes me enjoy it even more. I got to spend some time catching up with them the first night and found out that there was a festival starting the next day.

At first it sounded like it was something small that was taking place on one of the squares, but no, it was HUGE and took over most of the city. It’s a celebration of the town’s history, which is 800 years old this year so they had plenty to celebrate. There were little stands selling all sorts of hand made crafts throughout the city and multiple stages around - some with people doing traditional music and dancing, then others with really popular bands mainly from Slovakia but really all over Europe.

Too bad it is so HOT lately. The shade isn’t bad and the evenings get nice. It just really stinks when you’re either at an outdoor festival, or if you go all over Prague trying to find this one travel agency to get an international student identification card that gets you discounts on things, and you finally find it only to have them tell you – OH we’re sorry, this used to be a student travel agency but the old owner left, we don’t that anymore. So I went home with empty, sweaty hands.

But yes, back to school tomorrow and I am all ready to go. Glad I came so early and had some time to work and relax – both very necessary for stabilization – before my course starts and life ends. I meet some current teachers last night when I was out with the girl who lives up stairs. I got mixed reviews (considering one of them failed) but overall I really think I can do this and I am pumped for it to start.

I’ll let you know how it goes later. Looks like rain tonight! Hope the humidity goes down. 

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Don't press mystery buttons

I was so proud of myself. I have only been here a couple of days and already done a good bit of grocery shopping and made a couple of really good meals for myself - good looking and nutritious if not flavorful.

But what happens when I get curious and decide to press little buttons in my mini-fridge here? I guess the freezer shuts off!

I open my fridge - which means that my freezer open because the door does not stay shut for some reason - and a small waterfall pours out over my food and into all the little drawers. I thought at first maybe one of my bottles of water had leaked - BUT NO - MY FREEZER ALL MELTED! Completely ruined the tomato I had in the crisper. Who makes an unlabeled button that turns off the freezer?

Anyway, so my day started by cleaning/drying out my fridge. Productive start. I have been very productive lately. I am getting a lot of studying for my course done which is good - I might need the head start. Getting a lot of enjoyable writing done which is something I wish I would have done more of the last time I was here.

Getting my day started at all is pretty good the past couple of days - The time change is kicking my butt. I'm a little tired anytime I am not doing something active and today was the first day I did not wake up at 4AM - this is what I saw my first morning at 4 AM

Little dark isn't it? 

That is from the balcony of my flat. I really enjoy it here. Its a small place - my bed is flush against my kitchen - but its nice. I'll add pictures of that later.

In the mean time I am outside a good amount trying to enjoy the fresh air and the mostly enjoyable weather. If I get going to fast and then slow down it gets warm fast - me melting is more of a concern than my fridge. Someone mentioned to me how hot it was here and I thought "but I've been there and its not that bad - its just like Wisconsin" - but then I remembered that Wisconsin get really humid and the person I was talking to was in the Czech Republic in July (the one month that I have not lived in the Czech Republic before) and July in Wisconsin can be very uncomfortable. So we'll see how this goes.

Anyway - I use the free time I have to sit and enjoy little things that I find. I love the detail in everything here. Nothing is too simple an object to be intricate in its design. Age only adds to the incredible nature of so much that you can find on any street - including the street itself with bricks that are reused each time the streets are redone.

Going to Slovakia later this week to see a friend. She lives in Zilina which is a place I have been before and look forward to going back to. I hope everyone is well at home and you are all enjoying your vacations - at least those of you who get vacations.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Getting here was the easy part

The flight was long was it wasn't so bad. I meet some nice people and had a good conversation with the man next to me on the longest leg from Minneapolis to Amsterdam. He was Dutch but has lived in St. Louis for decades now. Interesting perspective on things. 

It was a long wait for my luggage especially since I was not sure that it would be coming in one piece. When you pack so late as I did, things do not always fit as nicely as planned. Still, the luggage got here with me and I went to meet the man holding a sign with my name on it - that was a first. He drove me to my new flat and even helped me upstairs with my luggage. 

He was the first person I was able to speak to in Czech and it was motivating to see how much I still remember - even after not sleeping for so long. I still have some improving to do though. That will come. 

My flat is nice- an entry with the shower room ahead and the bathroom to the right, my bedroom/kitchen to the left. It is a very nice room with plenty of space and a little balcony I can go to. Plenty of natural light through the large windows. 

I found out today that I can actually stay there the entire course and I won't have to move to a different flat next week - thats convenient but we'll see if I enjoy living alone that much. The upside is that I am MUCH closer to the school here - about two minutes on foot. The other students stay in the next suburb over - Still close but not as close.

 Pictures coming soon. 

Before I make a short story long - believe me it could all be much longer - I'll leave it at this. If anyone needs my address or phone number please let me know. Hope everyone is starting their summer well and stays well throughout.