Friday, July 17, 2009


I have now been informed that my late afternoon students really like me...BUT...what they really want from their "conversation" class is GRAMMAR. So. I am now being tested on the online course I took this past fall. It's stressful. Grammar is ALWAYS stressful, but, luckily, it's not like reading a different language, reviewing things like the perfective and the progressive forms of verbs. I just have to take my time and make sure I explain everything slowly and clearly. It's really just a matter of building on the simple forms of the verbs. Imagine me stacking those little cardboard bricks from day school on top of each other...except there are words like "simple present of to be" and "+" and "present participle" (which can also be a gerund...please don't ask me that today). This morning at breakfast Charles Hall asked me to tell him what I taught yesterday and we both got confused trying to remember the present perfect vs. simple present. Lots of rules. Never a dull moment.

The coffee in the cafeteria is WEAK. I woke up this morning a.)very hungry and b.) tired. Yesterday, I hadn't really left myself time to eat. I had cereal when I woke up (10:00), and then I didn't eat until 6:30 (because I was cramming in some grammar) when all I had time to grab before the Czech film was a bag of chips and a Kit Kat. When the movie let out, the only thing I could get to eat at a restaurant was...another bag of chips and a beer. Of course, in the Czech Republic, beer is food...and also medicine. I went to bed hungry, annoyed, and not at all medicinally satiated.

It was hot yesterday. It was so hot in the classrooms, my knees were sweating. It's hotter today. However, tomorrow it will be a great deal cooler, and it will be raining. So sayeth the weather man. I will either visit "The Athens of the South" in the Czech Republic on Saturday or "Pilsen's sister city in Germany" on Sunday. Any thoughts? I can't manage to do both and rest up for next week...and wash my underwear.

My walk to school...sometimes I stand and watch the wind blow waves across the grass...or wheat? It's some sort of grain. I'll take a closer picture of what makes up the field, and you can tell me later.

The girl on the bottom is one of my old students from 2007. She is a physics professor at the University. Yep. I will not reveal her name.

A french guy at the party on Wednesday. Again...yep.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Joan Jett has made it to the Czech Republic

I have two classes here in ol' Pilsen (Plzen). I teach a class at 2:00 with upper intermediate students who, so far, really like me, and I teach a class at 4:30 of beginners-lower intermediate students who...are divided I think on how they feel about me. I think most of them like me, but there is one (why is there ALWAYS one) that is completely unsatisfied with me (why is there ALWAYS one and why can't I focus on anything else). I plan my lessons with this one lady in my mind. I gotta shake it. She just gives me these looks, sighs a little too loud, and sometimes...I think...she rolls her eyes. But, you know, now that I think of it, she might be the only one that doesn't really like me.

Last night I attended the Welcome party which had a Mardi Gras theme...and since I don't usually think to bring Mardi Gras costumes with me when I go overseas, I didn't have anything to wear. So, I went naked. Just kidding. I went topless.....JUST KIDDING. It would have been SOOOOOO Mardi Gras, though...right? My students from the early afternoon found me right away. They were hanging out with this kid that I taught two years ago when he was 14. He's sixteen now, tall, sixteen year old boys are...but with a little goofy swagger. He bought shots for everyone and, on my suggestions, made them girly. He had an extra, and he gave it to his TEFL teacher (the teacher in training), who is a woman in her 60s. She was hilarious. She took her hat off and said, while holding the small glass "I've never done THIS before!" So we took a shot together, and she went to dance. Then my old (16 year old) student leaned over to me and said, "anytime you need a shot, you come to me," and then he wondered off to find a girl his age to flirt with. I wished him luck.

Most of the time the soundtrack at these parties consists of Europop, Roxette, the Friend's theme, and random old dance remixes from the states that made it over here (like that cotton eyed joe song...seriously). However, last night, we enjoyed a number of Michael Jackson songs, some newer hip-hop, and...Joan Jett. What a surprise.

At one point, I was in the bathroom washing my hands and one of my very first students ever...from 2006, came out of one of the stalls. We gasped in shock of our good fortune, hugged, and laughed at the irony of meeting in the bathroom...for it was in the bathroom where I explained to her and some other students the term "Breaking the Seal." She reminded me of that, and then we caught up. When she was my student, her English was Ok. It hadn't gotten much better the following year, but this year, it was fantastic. We could talk about anything and everything. It was such a nice surprise.

Tonight I am going to a Jazz festival in the town square with some of my students. I might need a break from beer. It's a little exhausting. Am I getting old?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Up the Down Escalator

It doesn't matter one single bit that I have been here twice before, I still can't manage to get it right for the first week and a half. I walk into the Menza to get my lunch, deciding on the very unappetizing-looking pasta dish. But I don't see a station for it once I get to the front of the line, and I ask, "Pasta?" Which is returned with a great deal of Czech that I don't understand. So, I just repeat, "Pasta?" and point to where I am standing, which, I'm sure must be really confusing to someone who clearly doesn't know the meaning of the word pasta, but might very well assume that I am not it. So I leave to find the number on the display case outside of the main cafeteria, but the turnstile doesn't go both ways, and I slam into it going the wrong direction in front of a few of the coordinators. At this point I feel like a three legged woman, or someone that was born with arms that go all the way down to the floor. I mutter an expletive, and find that my pasta dish is number 4. OF COURSE. The most impossible Czech number to pronounce. You can say it any way you like, mimic their pronunciation a million times, and it will never sound to them like the number 4. So I walked back into the Menza, and I held up four fingers, and he served me a square of over baked broccoli pasta "'surprise" that I managed to eat about a third of.

But that's not all. Oh no. Of course not. For my drink, I decided that it would be a good idea to stick with one of the drinks from the soda fountain. I chose the one with the picture of the orange on it. I thought, I have this coupon, and they say it is good for the main meal which I'm assuming includes something to drink. I'm wrong though. The lady says something to me in Czech about 5kc, and I say something back in English about how I thought the coupon covered something to drink, and she says, impressively, "We are not prepared." So I gave her what I had, 50Kc, and she gave me now I can get an instant coffee from the machine before I teach my class. Which is drawing ever nearer.

I have never taught a class that I haven't felt utterly terrified about. I have never gone into teaching a new class thinking, "This'll be easy. I'll be fine. Bah!" Of course, it usually is fine, but there is always this underlying dread...right beneath my skin...right around the line of my scalp, heavy on my chest...that it will not be all right, and there I'll be, staring back at a room full of students, with nothing to say, and no way to figure it out. That's pretty much where I am right now. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Body Clock

I did a very bad thing. I threw my body clock all out of whack. I made the mistake of allowing myself to sleep from midnight on Friday until noon on Saturday. When I got in bed on Saturday night, I ended up reading until 5 a.m. on Sunday. The sun was coming up. Well, the sun was up. The sun had started coming up at around 4. So, I slept until 1 today instead of another 12 hours. Perhaps we can do it tonight...and by "do it," I mean go to sleep at a normal hour.

It's a beautiful day in Pilsen today. It is in the low 70s, high 60s, with a nice breeze. I had a brisk walk through town, some Risotto at the corner pizza parlor, and then I stopped by a corner store to buy some milk for my coffee, but ended up with yogurt. You know, same old, same old.

One of my favorite things about cities in Europe are the little dogs everywhere. It can be a bit difficult, though. I hate having to run into an animal without being able to touch it. I saw a dead hedgehog on the side of the rode today...didn't touch it though. At first I thought it was a porcupine, but those have really long needles. Wasn't there a porcupine in Ol' Yeller? I seem to remember one.

It amazes me how much emotion being back in Europe is causing me. It all reminds me of my time in London, of my previous times here. I'm kind of lonely and stuck with these thoughts. The restaurant right down the street from the dorms has closed, so I can't count on running into people lounging on the patio in the afternoon. Not like the old days. I'm sure it will get better once school starts, but I'm currently having trouble connecting with people.

Hopefully my next post will be a little

Saturday, July 11, 2009

In Czech

I've brought my laptop to Europe, and I can't seem to get the internet set up in my place of residence. It is infuriating. I am at a coffee shop about to break a 1000 kc note for a coffee that is going to cost me around 30 kc, and I'm sure the server is going to rue the day that I walked through the door. The Czechs hate, HATE, making change. Of course....that's all the damn ATM will give me, so...whatareyagonnado?

The weather here is cool, chilly at night, and clear. I forgot how quiet it is before school starts. I also forgot how rich the food is. I had pizza for lunch today with about two blocks of cheese melted on top. Last night, I ordered a specialty at a restaurant, and ended up with about 50 pounds of potato, meat, gravy, and well as two beers. I ate until I was satisfied and still had about 45 pounds of food left on my plate. The server was aghast.

By the time I made it to bed last night, I was hanging by a thread. I had been walking around Prague all day...with slow walkers...after maybe six and a half hours of broken sleep while sitting up on a plane. I took a nap on the bus from Prague to Pilsen as well. Nothin beats waking up with that horrible pain in your neck from sitting up and snoozing. I lay awake in my bed for a moment, and then disappeared from existence for almost 12 hours.

To tell the truth, the shower in the sink doesn't really bother me as much as it did before. The smell of the room is nostalgic. I woke up to the sound of tennis balls bouncing on the court across the street.

I missed the walking tour this afternoon, for the third time in a row. I always intend to go, and I always end up missing I have to give myself a walking tour. I'm sure I'm missing some secret amazing thing by not participating in the guided tour.

Europe reminds me of England...or of Europe...or maybe it all just runs together. There is something similar about the whole...experience?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Brave New World

Bon jour mes amies. I'm sure if you didn't know before, you know by now: I have moved to Dahlonega, GA. I now live in a small town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I suppose I must have been here for a little over a month now. It's surprising. I have never pictured myself much of a small town girl, and I'm not sure I do now. I feel a little like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, but it's not terrible. It's interesting, exciting even.

I have spent the past four weeks falling over myself to unpack, fighting off insects numbering close to the population of the citizens of greater Memphis, struggling to get out of bed, and eventually domesticating myself for the time being. I do have a job in which I work in an organic garden, but, as we are in the middle of the heat of the summer, the only work to be done is work that I am unable to do: drive a tractor. Don't get me wrong, I would KILL to be able to drive a tractor, but it's easier to get people with a great deal more experience than I to do it while I read books on companion planting, fighting off pests and disease, and what to plant when.

I made a quick trip to the mid-west to reconnect with some of my family and bid one member goodbye.

I rarely have to stop at stoplights on my journey's into town. There are very few in the city, and none outside of it, where I live in a little cabin on a creek, shaded by a cave of trees.

I have also been exploring the world of shade loving plants.

My cats are in love with this place. What is it inside of us that causes us to become so attached to our pets? I find myself so enamored with my pets that my heart floods with joy when I see them lounging in the sun, in their element, at peace with nature. Am I crazy? The only thing they don't like is when I cross the creek to the island on the other side. They refuse to brave the very shallow waters of the creek, and when I skip across on stones and climb up the bank to enjoy the small patch of blue sky that peeks through the ceiling of the woods, they sit on the opposite bank, crying for me to come back, confused.

I am sure that someday soon I will experience some sort of neurological damage from the amount of insect repellent that I blanket my skin with. Ticks make up the other half of the insect population that aren't moths. They are rude, blood-sucking, and hard to kill. I have only found three on myself, hopefully due to my wholeheartedly clinging to the "myth" that consuming large amounts of garlic will put the insects off.

As far as domestication goes, I have made this house somewhat of a home, with an inviting, huge back porch, complete with shade loving flowers, color-coded recycling bins, a number of chairs, a pre-existing hammock, and colorful Christmas lights. I have explored the world of "daylight" lightbulbs in order to beat the one tragic flaw in my house: very few windows allowing very little natural light in. It's okay. I should be outside anyway. I live in the country.