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 off...at 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.