Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quick Update

Its late and I have a VERY long day tomorrow but I wanted to give you guys a quick update. To all of you praying for me about my 5 new classes tuesday, thank you. Other than some trouble with the bus not stopping at the right stop, everything went great. The classes are just different enough to be interesting but similar enough to allow easy lesson planning (I can do the same thing in several of the classes, thus saving me the time consuming part of creating unique lessons). The students are enthusiastic learners and should be wonderfully fun to teach. I think i'm really going to like this arrangement.

Tomorrow I am either traveling to and from class or teaching from 6:30am to 10pm. The payoff for this atrociously long day is that I'm going to Munich to Oktoberfest friday morning and returning sunday evening. I also plan to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. I will of course take my camera and of course have loads of pictures to show for it. I'll post an update all about it next week.

For now enjoy these pictures of some lovely flowers growing by the side of the street in my neighborhood. If you look carefully, you can even see St. Vitus's Cathedral and the Prague castle in the middle of the background.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Karlstejn Castle

Yesterday I decided to take advantage of what may be the last truly lovely weather we have this year and head out of Prague to visit Karlstejn Castle. For those of you who don't know (which is probably everyone), Karlstejn was built by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV as a stronghold for both himself and the Bohemian Crown Jewels in the 14th century. Due to an excellent location and strong walls, the castle has never been captured. It is definitely an impressive sight.

When I arrived, I discovered I had come on the day of a festival (gotta love lucky coincidences). This meant there were so many people I ended up waiting half an hour at the castle gate before I could get in. However, it also meant that while I waited for my tour to start I was treated to bellydancing, whips, juggling, snake charming and live music (good trade).

The castle was great. The interior was sparsely furnished but that's how it really was at the time. The exterior was majestic and the valley it sits above was stunningly picturesque. And I have the pictures and videos to prove it.

Tomorrow I start my first week of full-time work. I'm excited (and a little nervous). I meet 5 new groups that I will be teaching tomorrow, so any and all prayers would be greatly appreciated. Hopefully they go as well as everything else has so far. For now, I'm off to plan my lessons to insure they do.

Don't forget to send me updates on how all of you are doing. I love hearing updates from friends and family! For now, here are the pictures and videos I promised.

Full gallery of pictures here

Karlstejn Castle and Village

Karlstejn Village

Karlstejn Valley

The Castle at Sunset

The railway station at dusk


video
The guys playing their light, fun tune while I waited for my tour.

video
The bellydancers couldn't resist dancing (even when they're sitting)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My first football (soccer) match

Today I went to see my first professional soccer (futball) match. It was definitely interesting, but mostly because of the atmosphere. The game itself was a 1-1 tie and while soccer is slowly growing on me, its still only slightly more interesting than watching CSPAN. The fun part was watching the fans (they throw beer A LOT), listening to their chants (Olé!, Olé!, Olé!, Olé!), and drinking in the atmosphere of a regular season game (or in the case of most of the crowd, just drinking). All in all, not bad but I think I'll wait for a more important game before I go again. The soccer fanatics were disappointingly tame tonight.

I am currently smack in the middle of a 3 day weekend. To take advantage of this rare privilege, I am going to leave Prague for the first time since I arrived here tomorrow and go see the castle at Karlstejin. Many pictures shall accompany this expedition.

On all other fronts life is good. I start my new, full-time schedule Tuesday (which I'm very excited about) and hopefully next week I'll go to Germany to see a friend and visit Oktoberfest. Right now I'm planning a trip out of Prague every weekend for the next month. Gotta travel while the weather is still nice. As you can see from my first picture, its already cold enough here that hoodies are necessary at night.

Thanks for all your comments and emails about my posts. Its nice to hear what my loved ones think of this crazy but fun life I'm living. TTFN


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Great News!!!

Ok, normally I don't do entries back to back but I'll make an exception here. I just received some wonderful news from work.

Up until now I had been teaching 5 classes a week, spread out over the week. 12 90minute classes is considered working full time. Today I was offered 9 more classes, 5 in a group on Tuesday, 4 in a group on Thursday. Its in a town about an hour outside of Prague. That is the only bad part and even that isn't that bad since its all by bus or train, so the commute is relaxing. Now for how this is good, let me count the ways.

1. It means that now I'm working full time (much needed money).
2. Because the classes are mostly on Tues Thurs, it means I can pick up more classes to teach or have more time to travel the rest of the week.
3. The classes are more relaxed. In most of them, from what i've been told, they want to focus almost exclusively on conversation. We would spend class discussing current events, politics, holidays, hobbies, history, anything really.
4. So basically I will be getting paid to talk. Knowing my dad and how much i'm like him, I'm sure you'll understand that this will be hard for me.
5. The students are supposed to be eager and wonderful. The last teacher was very sad he had to stop teaching them.

So you can see why I think this is great news. It puts me in position to not worry about money and gives me the flexibility to handle the rest of my schedule as I see fit. I'm extremely happy with my employer, James Cook Language, so far. Hopefully this continues.

For now here is a picture of part of the view out my bedroom window and one of the huge statue in Wenceslas Square in the heart of Prague (and the National Museum behind it).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Prague celebrates International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

First, today is a sad day since my Cowboys lost a game they REALLY should have won. Otherwise, this week has been great. Tim got a full time job and soon we'll both be raking in the money. We get a long weekend thanks to a Czech holiday this coming monday. Hopefully we can do a little traveling during that time.

Saturday night was great. A bunch of my friends and I went to a wine tasting and free outdoor concert in a city park. I have no idea if the wine was good (I arrived late) but the music was hilariously fun. The first band was a kind of silly techno group and the lead singer had a pirate bandana on in honor of international talk like a pirate day (one of my favorite holidays for the obvious reason that you get to TALK LIKE A PIRATE all day). Then they had a fire dancer for the intermission and then a Latino Salsa band. So we had a park full of people merrily drinking and dancing. It was so fun. We all danced the whole time they played.

Work continues to go well. I'm becoming a better and more thorough teacher every day. I'm continuing to pick up new classes and so far I love all my groups. The students are all adults, who are strongly motivated to learn and a pleasure to teach.

To hold you over until the next update, here are some pictures from a recent tour of Prague. I went back to the Prague Castle to show it to a friend (it was still breathtaking). I also posted a few more pictures from my walk in a park that was off the beaten path and one of a dinner out with the guys.

Dinner at a Mexican food place with friends. You'd almost think I never left Texas. (From left to right: Josh, Dave, Tim, Me)

The Cathedral found a new way to be stunning for my 2nd visit.

The Vltava River which bisects Prague.

More lovely countryside (except this is still in the city)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Settling In

Good morning guys. Tim and I have now lived in our flat for one week. And now he likes it (but only because about half a dozen girls told him how great it was). Overall, I'm very happy here and am enjoying the process of working my way into full time hours. I now have 6 90minute classes (3 of these classes start next week) (12 is considered full time) . So far i've only taught one, a 2+ hour private lesson with a nice, quiet man at Ikea. It was very enjoyable and i'm looking forward to doing more lessons with him.

Aside from work, life is going well too. This weekend doesn't have any special plans (other than going to an American bar to watch the Cowboys sunday night!) but in two weeks I'm planning to go visit my friend in Munich. While I'm there I'll take a day to go to Oktoberfest (because I HAVE to do that just to say I did it), spend one visiting Neuschwanstein and one doing who-knows-what.

And darn the luck, the people helping me with my visa just told me that i'll have to go to Vienna 2 or 3 times as part of the visa process. Life is so hard here. It breaks my heart but I guess I'll make the sacrifice.

The internet is supposed to be installed in our flat monday, so I will be able to keep this more up-to-date then. For now, I continue my updates from KFC (they have free Wifi over here and its close by).

Oh and since summers here are lovely and I'm trying to take advantage of it, here are some pictures from a recent walk I took with a Czech friend of mine. Hope you enjoy them.

This does a wonderful job of characterizing Prague's summer.


We found a rainbow in the sky that had no business being there (since it hadn't rained). We didn't object.


I don't know exactly why, but I love this picture. It seems so poetic to me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Adjusting

I discovered I am in sad shape recently. Tim and I moved into our new flat friday and it was then that i discovered I definitely have a minor addiction to the internet. It hasn't been installed yet and this has put me out of touch with the rest of the world. It was very sad the next day and very nice today.

While I would certainly like to have emails reach me in a timely manner, not having the web to putz around on has got me reading the classics (Pride and Prejudice) and poetry (a collection of Robert Frost's work) while listening to beautiful classical music. I found this was the perfect way to spend a cool, gray fall day (autumn actually starts in September here like its supposed to). I also went to a very nice church this morning which I liked quite a bit, all things considered. I went with a couple from my TEFL class, Josh and Emily Whittenburg, who share my beliefs and are a pleasure to spend time with.

I start work this week but I only have 1 class i'm teaching so far. Hopefully they will be able to build me up to full time work quickly. In the mean time, I'm enjoying myself as much as possible and adjusting to my new home and life. I really feel God's peace in my life right now and that is a great comfort. I am praying this whole experience will help to strengthen and grow my faith. However, for right now I'd settle for him making my friend's plane arrive on time. We have our first houseguest tonight and i'm very excited.

In basic summary: this has been a very challenging month and a half in almost every way possible but I believe it was the right choice to come here and despite occasional bouts of sadness (which is part of perfectly normal culture-shock) I really am enjoying this wonderful opportunity. For now, here is a 5 picture tour of my room and part of the view out my large bedroom windows. Its not huge but I like it.

PS. To those who expect me to be sillier, sorry for the meditative tone of this. I've been in an excellent but reflective mood for the last couple days.



Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Graduation

I did it. My teacher training program is finished! I am now a licensed ESL teacher. In fact, our entire group of 19 graduated (usually a couple fail). I am exhausted but very proud. This course was seriously challenging for the pure volume of work. Even I was pushed hard by it and that hasn't happened often to me before. And it only makes the accomplishment sweeter.

However, great as this accomplishment feels, it can't match a moment from earlier this week. That came courtesy of one of my students named George. He's in his early 50s and is very outgoing and fun when he isn't taking naps (kinda like Grandad in Arizona). He told me (in his deep, dracula sounding accent) "You did very good today in class. I could not fall asleep once!" Right then, I knew I was ready.

Now Tim and I are shifting focus from school to starting work and moving into our new flat. And great news on that front, our flat has a sleeper couch. Hopefully here in another week or two, we might even get into something like a routine. And once that happens, our travels will begin and pictures will abound!

For now, enjoy these pictures of Old Town Square during a 2 week festival dedicated to the Golem, the mythical protector of the Jews. Sadly enough, my favorite part of this festival is the excellent and cheap food available in the square. haha, I guess some things never change.