Monday, September 29, 2008

Some kooky KIddo Castle pics

We went to the castle this weekend and it was tremendous. It happened to be St. Wenceslas's day which is also a national holiday - that meant admission to the Church was free (I didn't know that). We still bought tickets as there are a lot of other exhibits, a few art galleries, and some fascinating tours. We didn't get to see even half of it. I really recommend coming early in the day with comfy shoes, a light sweater, bottled water, camera, extra batteries, and either getting an english tour guide or renting the audio machine for the english guided walks.

The tour guide is probably better, but definitely more expensive. We didn't do either - we just wandered around and listened to different guides when we happened to meet up with them. I know there will be plenty of other times we'll take the tours - and complete the tour of the castle complex - and most likely within a year or so I will be able to offer a tour to my houseguests - but there's so much information right now that I couldn't possibly retain it.

The main Church does not have any english inside - you will see tremendous historical information, creations of such beauty, and truly awe inspiring works of art - and not have a clue exactly what it is you're looking at. Some of the other buildings do have information in english as well as czech.

They have pottery fragments from 5000+ BC and intact pottery from 2500 BC - from the area. There are burial robes from various saints and kings, and chain mail, and daggers over a thousand years old. It was fascinating. This is the second time we've been up there, and the second time we had to leave due to exhaustion and sensory overload. You can really spend a few days just touring the castle complex.

Our camera died way too early. We'll be back up there soon and take more pictures then...

(Right now the pics won't load so I'll get them up another time)

A few tasty food items

The picture of the caesar salad prompted me to take a few more pics of the foods we eat here... so here are some gyros -the kidl's new favorite food - and the goulash she had at the castle. I tried to take pic of my potato- bake (we'd call it a casserole) thingy from the castle, too - it tasted like smoked potatoes with ham and spongy melted cheese which sounds horrid but was deliciously good - but the batteries died as I took the goulash photo.

We were super amused by this particular gyro stand - they gave us forks, as most of them do, but look at the size!!!

My computer lab workspace

Here are some pics from my computer lab job - there are two looking out the window/door to the courtyard on the left - those are the ones with the cars. In the one with the railing on the left side, the restaurant I get the caesar salad from is on the ground floor, in the pic with the railing on the upper right side, under the arch is where the entrance is, and the school library.

In the pic with a door, that is the entrance to the Knights of Malta Church - I don't know the official name, but that's what it is. A lot of tourists come in and out throughout the day. In that courtyard there is an art gallery and an antique shop as well.

The pic with the computers - that's the computer lab. Duh.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dog Poo, People Poo

Two things I'm not sure I mentioned:

One - there is dog poo everywhere. People will say, oh, just like Paris - NO nothing like Paris - the stench is unreal, and I do mean everywhere. Not so much in our district as the downtown area - it's horrible, you really have to watch the sidewalk or you'll step in it.

Two - We've had an occurence with our neighbor across the hall when he was, well, inebriated. His Mom kicked him out - literally, physically, he was put in a headlock and shoved out of the apartment. He then spent hours and hours hollering and buzzing at the door for them to let him in... we managed to fall asleep that weeknight, but only after midnight.

How did these two totally unconnected things happen to be raised, as if they had some importance?

Well, the neighbor, or maybe the neighbor's friend, showed up just before noon today, buzzing us, buzzing them, and finally gaining admittance to the building - and then buzzing the door across the hall. He went in and out and was trying to get back in and calling and talking and hollering, and we were in our apartment preparing to leave for the day.

I had to check through our peep hole a few times as our door was buzzed and it sounded like someone was knocking, but he was just drunk and stumbling and knocking in to things.

Not thrilled.

Unfortunately, not the worst of it either.

At some point in time he had an accident. That's the nice way of putting it, and as I know family reads this I'm letting you know to skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid a more graphic description. Skip down now... The guy shit himself and then walked around the hall, stumbling, grinding it in to the carpet and our doormat.

For the family version... He went #2 in the hallway and didn't clean it up.

We were leaving and opened the door as the door across the hall was opening to the drunk - and there was an instant recoil on my part as the smell hit me. We had to regroup and plan our exit strategy and then we made it out - we spent hours and hours up at Prague Castle today - photos and more details later - and then started dreading coming home.

Apparently, with good reason.

Six hours later and they've not cleaned up. Not at all.

Gross stuff again so skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it....NOW... fortunately it's dried a little so the smell isn't so immediately nausea inducing.

I am at a loss and frustrated. And disgusted.

Just this morning the kid had mentioned how much she loved our apartment and we were discussing how much we loved being here, and had no desire to move.

The yuckiness must stop.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Life is on the mend.

Well, I haven't broken any more doors - although I seem to have acquired a klutziness factor - I keep knocking things over, which didn't make me to many friends in the market... and electronics are spluttering at me... but no permanent harm!

We still don't have enough keys to the apartment, but we can get in and out so that's good.

Tonight I am going to my first MEETinPRAGUE event. I tried to get a little dressed up for it this morning when I was getting ready for work. I think I look nice, I hope I look nice, and if the evening is a success I will have someone take a picture with me in it (I brought my camera)and will post it later, attached to this specific post.

I have been trying to figure out how to get to the meeting place, and while I think I'm pretty sure how to get there, after my experience the other day of buses and trams not being where they should I'm just a little hesitant going anyplace new.

So, if I get lost tonight here's a link to where you should send a search party Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden. The link is actually another blog, written by an American, I presume, who writes the food reviews for one the English language papers in town.

I think I'm meeting up with a few of the people I've met so far - but I'm not positive. Some of them are apparently very particular and not happy it's an outdoor event since it's been so cold lately - even though it's just about gorgeous out right now!

I'll get back with a review of the evening after it's over.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Did I somehow jinx myself???

It is 11:38 am as I sit down to write this.

In the past 36 hours we've had problems with the doors, the kid has caught a cold, and I lived through this morning. As the day is not yet half way over I wish I could just take a long nap and sleep through the rest of whatever it is fate has in store for me.

I got up at 6:15 today in order to make my 8:00 am appointment at the pre-school. I carefully plotted out my route last night, on-line, and confirmed it this morning before I left. I gave myself half an hour to make a 15 minutes two bus trip to the metro station we were to meet at.

I started off right.

The world did not cooperate.

I got on and off my bus at the appropriate stops. When I went to catch the second bus there was a problem. It wasn't there. The bus did not go to the bus stop I was at, the bus stop the transit site told me to get off at. So I tried to find other bus stops in the immediate area - there were quite a few. I got on the bus and then realized and then when it stopped and everyone had to get out I figured out I had got on the wrong bus. I couldn't see the next bus stop right away, but I found one and walked over to read the route - I had found bus the right bus but it was going the wrong direction.

There was quite a crowd waiting and I could not see the correct bus stop anywhere - I asked a woman for help, in czech, 'excuse me please, where ' and that's all I got out before she looked at me and sort of spit out ' I don't know, I don't know' and turned away. Everyone else turned away too. So far from helpful, but her refusal to even let me finish my question really made me mad and rubbed in how helpless I was feeling at that moment.

I walked around trying to find the right bus stop and I found one - and then I got on the wrong bus - on purpose this time. Instead of going to the metro station I wanted it was going to a different metro - I got off on that metro as it was only one stop away from the station I needed to be, and it was the fastest way for me to get where I needed to be.

AND THEN - I got on the metro going the wrong direction. So I got off that metro at the next stop and got back on the correct direction and got off and met my boss and another new teacher in the middle of the metro station.

I spent a few hours at school, observing and playing with the kids, and then I left - with a mission.

When the man replaced the lock yesterday he only gave me one key - obviously we need another as the kid needs to be able to come and go at will. I took the red line metro, transferred to another line, the green line which is our home line, and went past out stop to the next in order to get to the one place I know of where they make keys. I got off the metro and walked to Tesco through the mud - yes, it's still raining today - and went upstairs to get some copies made.

Apparently when I went to buy the kid cold medicine last night, I took my dictionary and phrase book out of my purse - which I realized when I went to request new keys. We managed to get through that and he understood how many copies I wanted. He took the key and started grinding a new one.

And then he stopped after just one key (I wanted extras). It seems that he doesn't have the right size keys for my housekey and so wasn't able to make a copy after all.

I don't know of any other key makes, can't find my book, and am tired after having had a stressful morning - and hoping I wasn't about to get fired for being so late to the metro. The kid texted me, which I didn't get until a moment ago - she can't find her housekeys. While she doesn't have a key to get in the apartment she does have a key to get in the building... but not right now as they're lost.

I'm tired and now I have to get ready to go to work. And I have to find a new key guy too.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The problem with doors... or why I missed half of class today

I was originally thinking about this last night, but was too busy with homework to post. Maybe if I had that would've been the end of it, or maybe I would have had to write an addendum today.

It started yesterday at school:

I forgot how to open the door. I know that sounds silly, and thinking about it right now, it really is, but that's the truth of it. I have those monstrously large doors at the courtyard to both buildings of my school and I just couldn't get them open.

When I went to work there was a guy who was going to the lab. He stepped over and buzzed and I pushed at the door. Nothing happened. He buzzed again and I pushed, still nothing going on. And again, but this time I tried moving the handle. The fourth time he buzzed, pulled and pushed and we got in.

After work I went next door to turn in the keys. Three times I buzzed and three times I was unable to open the door. Noone else was around to help me, and then I remembered I still had the keys to the building in my bag as I had closed up the school the night before. I finally was able to get in by using the key.

Frustrating. Comical, yes, but definitely frustrating.

When I got home last night the key turned in the lock a few too many times. I just attributed it to my bad door luck and thought nothing more of it till, oh, let's say about 45 minutes ago. I should have been a few hours, though.

It should have hit me about 8 am. When the kid left for school this morning she couldn't get the key to work correctly - she couldn't get it out or get the door unlocked - I don't remember exactly, but it was something. I pulled her key out and used my key to unlock the door - and it worked just fine. She left and was on her merry way.

When she got to school she called me as the door was locked and no one was responding to the buzzer. She didn't quite know what to do (I forgot to mention she was running late at that point, school had already started). During our conversation someone saw her outside and buzzed her in. Great.

Then me - I have class... and so like a good student I was leaving for class in a timely manner when it happened. The lock broke.

I stuck my key in and opened the door and when I went to pull it out it wouldn't let me. I pulled and pulled and finally turned and turned and then it slid out - with the lock fully extended. I tried to use my key to retract the lock so I could close the door, but no dice. That lock wasn't going to move - it wouldn't budge no matter what I did - and I tried both sides of the doors, jiggling it, looked at was I shoving the key in too far, not far enough, too hard, too gently.... I was stuck in my house with a door that wouldn't close.

So I emailed my landlord in the hopes that he'd check his email, see my plight, and come to our rescue, much like he did when we blew the main fuse outside the apartment. And I sat down to wait. I can't leave with my front door wide open. I can't close the door. I wasn't seeing many other options.

And then I heard it - something in the hall. So I ran out to check and there was a man... whose english skills are equivalent to my czech, but with a bit of mime and the obvious visual aids he was able to understand my problem. I thought - I'm saved, I've just somehow triggered some freaky door lock thingy and this guy is czech so he knows how to undo it. I was wrong. I didn't trigger anything. The lock was broken.

And with a sudden change in luck, it turns out the guy I'd cornered was the handyman and he ran downstairs and got the part I needed and switched it out in under 5 minutes.

And I have missed a good portion of class already, so I'm headed over to join in with the break and explain to my instructor what the heck happened. I still don't know what I did, and I really hoping I can remember how to open the doors once I get to school... I'm sort of counting on my luck to change.... something, anything, just get me back in the gods good graces... or I'm going to be stuck inside and outside of a lot of buildings for some time to come.


Evening update: When I got to school the door was open, but I got jumbled up trying to leave school and buzzing myself out. When I got home I freaked out - the key was not on my ring - but it had jumped to another key ring - I didn't remember moving it, but it was the key that opened the door so I forgot about the freaky moving key... until...

I got a phone call from the kid. I'd run out to the grocery store and she had arrived home and the door would not open! She tried and tried but her key would not open the door! Fortunately I was on my way home, around the corner, so she waited for me and when we arrived back upstairs I opened the door with my key... the freaky key that had changed key rings. Upon closer inspection it is a new key - the lock was changed, not just a piece of the lock, and so tomorrow I have to go make copies so we can both freely access our house.

Monday, September 22, 2008

September photos from a drizzy day of shopping

These pictures were from our shopping trip on Sunday - in between the rainy periods. The paintings are more than what they may seem - the are mini-car tops... the little minis that you'll see on the road, these are tops that were painted for people and then removed and put on exhibit on the streets of Prague. The other photos are of a marionette and a man - super cute routine timed to some classical music and a comedy bit - in the photos here the marionette is playing the violin and it was perfectly synced, stroke for stroke, with the music.

Pics of the my walk home and the Lennon Wall... yes it's the Lennon Wall and not the Lenin Wall!

These are some pictures we took shortly after arriving that just haven't made it on to our blog yet. The colorful ones are of the Lennon Wall (named for John Lennon) it's been around for decades now, as a symbol of hope, peace, and freedom. It is around the corner from my school - actually if I walk out the side entrance from the computer lab it's on that wall. Facing it are various embassies. The government used to show up regularly to paint the wall over - every few days or so - and finally one of the ambassadors asked them to stop - they let them know they didn't mind the graffiti or the crowds.... and it's remained since then. Popular spot, the art work is constantly evolving.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The kid's first pair of skinny jeans....

She was reluctant to get them as they're rather trendy and now they're her favorite pair...

She's awfully cute!

Please note the mismatched socks and Wonder Woman t-shirt

political ponderings...

For the most part I'm trying to leave my political views off of here - this is supposed to be about our life here, in Prague... but I found a cross-over and so here's the (first) political crossover...

I have some strong views on our government and where we're at, where we're headed - the upcoming election... and in pursuing my interests I've discovered some devastatingly detailed articles I've forward to friends back home - sort of like - here's a summary of the news that came out while you were sleeping that I found most worthy... and I'm getting emails back saying - there's been nothing of this in our news... the US agencies haven't touched this... nice to know the international media isn't holding off on reporting what's important and untouched by the domestic channels - basically stuff about Palin and her horrendous and duplicitous style of governing. And other stuff too.

So - what's been super interesting to me, here, is how much non-americans care about our elections - the coverage and attention being paid to our issues was at first surprising to me, but now I think I have a better grasp as to why.


There is a lot of fear over here and that we're headed in to another world war - that with the wrong government, that with our current administration even, steps will be taken that will further alienate and isolate Russia and tensions will increase - with the radar installation being developed along with the conflict in Georgia and the aid we're extending - that those steps in conjunction will be taken as potential acts of aggression on our behalf and with the precedent of pre-emptive attack that we've established the world balance of peace will be thrown seriously off kilter and that the situation here, or near here, or beyond even, will be quickly shift back in to one of fear and weapons accumulation and a cold standoff if not out right acts of aggression,

The American President will have a major role in how this plays out.

They don't want another gung-ho might is right and god is on my side fanatical leader - or vice-president - but someone who will be slower to jump to the guns and more diplomatic in thought and word (Did you see McCain lump in Spain with the Latin American countries who are being aggressive towards the US??? And when he was corrected not backtrack before rather affirm they'd better watch their step with us.... they're our allies!!)... They don't want a fanatical hockey-mom heading who thinks humans have been in existence for only 3,000 years, since god blew breathe in to their lungs and physically placed them on the planet. They don't understand someone who would place restrictions on women's rights as we're supposed to be the land of the free - and free here post-communism is a word with a different meaning than we've created for the American 'free' - they're a bit more liberal in some stances.

It's been interesting to me when non-Americans bring up our political situation - and most of the American students I've met are more liberal - which is to be expected, having chosen to live in Eastern Europe for the cultural experience and personal expansion.... while the older adults I've met are very conservative - and I do believe I am the only American OBAMA supporting parent in the kid's school - which also isn't shocking as they're very conservative Christians who also believe Evolution to be a political/scientific fallacy disproven by the Bible which is accepted (by most CISP American parents, who are here on some sort of missionary journey) to be the literal word of God.

Living overseas during an election is turning out to be a rather interesting experience... and in case things go Republican I'm already removed from a nation I will not know how to respond to.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cultural Clash Class - Religion as a Social Force

Today's class was on Marx and his views on society, economics, and religion.  Communism.  Capitalism is the root of all ills and disenfranchises man from himself promoting the need to find solace in an ideal man, a God-man, with the promise of a more complete and fulfilling existence

It was really interesting and I could appreciate whereMarx was coming from, and how at the time of his writing his interests were so topical and relevant to the world as to be all consuming... he was a major political activist in his own right.

What was super interesting in the class, though, was the different approaches taken towards Marx along the different cultural lines...

The Frenchman, in talking about Marx's theories and how the correspond to Darwin's, said the bourgiesie where who they were because they deserved it, and the proletariat were stuck where they were because they weren't any smarter... that they had each evolved in to their rightful place.

A Czech girl turned the conversation away from communism - with out ever addressing Marx and started rambling about the importance of being lazy, and how without forced capitalism people would be free to be lazy and enjoy themselves...

The Serb responded that it had been taken too far and that Serbians no longer know how to work - the entire nation is lazy, and the people unmotivated...

And then we came to the idea of communism, as an ideal it would lead to utopia - and then a Czech jumped in with how communism has affected the people and created a society that expects to be cared for without knowing how to care for themselves... and that is was never fully communistic but rather socialistic and then the Frenchmen says that France did socialism better than the communists - who failed to fully realize communism, and the Serb was in the conversation too...

And as an American - at that point, they lost me.  I was taught the USSR was communist, not socialist.  I thought the Iron Curtain was the defining line for Communist countries and The Free World.  I didn't know France was ever socialist - all though that sounds familiar...  And Serbia - how long have they been a free country?  I don't know a thing about their history as a PEOPLE as I believe it is a rather new country and no, I don't have a clue about that either.  

What was most interesting for me wasn't so much the words coming out of their mouths, or the revelation of new levels of ignorance, it was watching these people from all over the world relate and how they fit in to little stereotypes I try really hard not to validate.

The Frenchman was arrogant and dismissive.  The Czech girl was flighty and deflecting political commentary on her nation until a nerve was struck and then responded with passion.  The Serb was direct and almost guttural in his speech - in contrast to his facial expressions but in line with his physical interactions, very rigid and tense.  

The Frenchman - he fit the stereotype which you are probably familiar with.  The Czech are supposed to be reluctant to address politics but when they do to be passionate, and the Serb, a nice guy, sounded like he was in an old movie, an old eastern european heavy but directed his anger at his own people rather than at The Free World.

I had stuff to add and was able to participate in other aspects of the conversation - but I found listening and observing to be nearly as important as reason for my presence as the lecture.

Asking for Directions

The title was misleading. I know. Because this post isn't about me asking directions, but rather random people asking me for directions.

In the past two days, I've had two people stop me in the middle of the street, and start speaking rapidly in Czech. I told them I didn't speak the language in a many times practiced phrase, and they went along. The first woman simply said, " Oh, pardon," and hurried off. However, the second couple were a bit more boisterous ( the wording from my mother sitting next to me ). I said, " Nemluvim Czesky", ( I don't speak Czech ) and they started laughing. Hysterically. The man repeated what I said, and went on another round of laughing. They were still cracking up as they walked away. I kind of just stood there, wondering what was so funny about what I said. Did I butcher it? Because I thought that I was getting quite good at those two simple words. Maybe not. Either way, it stung. Poor kid. ( Once again, said by my mother .)

Housing and Construction and the outfits

I have no idea if this is left over from communism or what, but all the construction workers, and other manual laborers as well, wear matching outfits - sort of coveralls with not quite an overall top and not quite suspenders but an odd mixture of the two. I've realized that they might even be color coded according to their position. I come across troops of this deep sea green with the plastering guys, and then a really blue bunch of guys are setting something else, and the guys in white are usually getting garbage.... It's a little odd, not that big a deal, just different.

There's been a housing shortage in Prague for decades now - 20 years ago you could wait for 20 years for a place on the list to open up so you could move you wife and kids out of your parents house... Then things changed. However, there's still been a major shortage in the housing market, and gosh, but the people here are doing everything that can to fix it!

Construction and manual laborers work seven days a week - not necessarily the same workers are out there but the crews are working seven days a week. They work long hard days and they just don't stop. It's been really interesting watching them put together some apartment buildings in our neighborhood - nice apartment buildings.

The ones I've been aware of had already been erected and were standing with the brick shells. Since then the balconeys have been built, windows have gone in, the roof is in place too - but what's been super interesting is watching the insulation. They use sheets of packing foam - not the little peanuts, but the hard foam you'd find cushing and encasing a new tv or other large electronic appliance. The cut those pieces of foam in to strips and attach them to the brick - so the brick walls have become completely white walls - and then they cover the foam in some sort of cement or cement like substance.

While watching the process has been interesting, I had an unusual experience today - I took the tram all the way from school to as close to home as possible - 3 bus stops away. I usually take the metro where I need to be, but I wanted to see more of the city and gain a better understanding of my physical relationship to the rest of my life's locations....

I have seen such beauty and inspiration and grace and character in these old buildings that the contrast I saw today was near horrifying. I recently had a conversation with Coral's principal where she was talking about living in Belarus and the opressive gray communist panaleks - the harsh looking buildings, reinforcing the bleakness of communist life.

I've heard of them but hadn't seen them until today. They sucked the life out of me - me and everything else in the surroundings. It really was like rounding a corner and being met by this oppressive looming dreariness.... like the NOTHING in the Never Ending Story - if you happen to have caught that movie.

It was startling - I'll go back to take some pictures and to check out the little cheeriness there I did see - but it made me so grateful that we're in the home we're in, by chance, and in our surroundings... light, bright, graffiti free, and in as pretty and green an area as you could hope for in a city.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The weather change is like a light switch

Friday was warm, hot actually. I wore a skirt and two layered tank tops to the computer lab, and carried a super light weight zippy sweatshirt which I had no need for until I sat waiting for a bus at 10 pm.

I went to bed that night and found myself waking up through the night. It was the first night I'd felt a need for a blanket. I've been sleeping with a blanket nearby but it just hasn't even been cool. I woke up to grab it and make sure I was fully covered... and woke up again after I kicked it off... and woke up again, to find that I was completely covered but that it wasn't enough - and had trouble sleeping as I was so cold.

Saturday we had heard would be a little cooler - of concern and a topic of conversation because we were going canoing for the day.

A little cooler is as appropriate a description as, say, ice isn't warm. It was freezing. I thought it might warm up a bit, and in a few spots we found some sun (more on the trip later) but for the most part there was a frigid air blowing us backwards up the river.

When we got back to Prague it was even colder. We had warm dry clothes and had been sitting in a car for an hour, but waiting for the bus we were shivering and chattering. It was so cold that we went in to the Tesco at the bus stop and bought another comforter and another blanket... and looked at coats.

Coral couldn't find a coat she liked and we were both cold and tired so we caught the bus and made our way home... where I took a really hot bath.

Yesterday, Sunday, it drizzled. The drizzling was warmer than the wind, though. It has been freezing!!! Bone cold!! We got up and dressed in our warmest clothes, our mission was to find some coats or winter shoes and some warmer clothing. We set off for the far end of Prague and went back to the metro stop we were at the previous day when we went canoing. There is a great mall there.

At the first shop Coral found a long sleeved t-shirt for a very reasonable price. The next store we went in to was fashionably cute along the lines of Anthropolgie - but not as expensive, by a long shot. However, even cheap Anthrolopgie-esque is beyond our budget to after much admiration and some time in the dressing room we moved on... and hit the jackpot.

I found a pair of jeans (yes, I got one pair of jeans because all the other pants I found were some sort of like synthetic material that the wind would tatter in seconds) a few long sleeved shirts and a sweater or two (not at home, can't remember) and Coral found a coat. She really, really likes it, too. It's pretty darn adorable, plaid and hooded and cute.

We wandered the mall some more, and for this outing I remembered to put new batteries in the camer and to put the camera in my purse - but somehow the batteries drained and the camera died during my first picture... sorry.

We had a great time, and then it was time to leave and we were shivering all over again walking back to the metro.

Today I had an interview with a lady who wants me to talk with her little boy - he's 1 1/2. I went a little early as I was concerned I may not find the spot where we were to meet. I got dressed in my new warm clothes, as bundled as I could be, and while standing outside waiting for the bus I realized how insufficient my wardrobe was - the wind was coming through my jeans like I had nothing on. The sky looked ready to breakdown and start sobbing, and the bitter cold was biting my ears and nose and fingertips. I hopped on the bus, got off at the metro, saw a sign for a discount clothing store and bought myself a coat - a really warm coat which I also happen to like. Hopefully it will serve me well, and if not, well, it saved me for at least today and was worth the money it cost if it does nothing more.

I met with the lady and her children and will start working with them in October, when I start my teaching job as well. During our conversation she expressed her dismay with the weather - apparently there is usually a little more transition between summer and winter - and yes, the winter weather has started, as of Saturday. There shouldn't be any more sunny hot and humid days until the spring.

Everyone at school was caught by surprise too - except for the natives, who, for which this may be an unusual drastic difference, knew the indications that the cold was coming and weren't caught unprepared... it was literally tank tops and t-shirts on Friday and now it's fingertips through the mittens and scarves up to your nose...

I am so grateful for my tub and my Mom. And that I packed my furry slippers.

Friday, September 12, 2008

mullets and undergarments

There are just a few things here that continue to surprise me - the hair choices would be the big one - I have never in my life seen so many mullets!! All colors, all lengths, every variation imaginable and some I never would have even nightmared, and all ages... why would you give your toddler daugther a mullet?? Why would an woman well beyond my mother's year choose to give herself a mullet - I mean, other than to match her husband (which they quite often do)? Why would you stripe your mullet? Why would you grow out dreads in order to then get a mullet and have the worst of both worlds? Or why would you grow long dreads, shave the top and sides of your head and then give yourself little mini-dreads on top to complete the mullet???

AND why is it the stores sell so few smooth bras? It is practically impossible to find ones that aren't heavily textured or frilled or appliqued or something... and trust, it's not a flattering look on any figure.

there was music everywhere

I know I've already mentioned there's a music school across the way from my school, but it was so cool yesterday when I walked around the corner and was met with a string class - a beautiful string class, some melodic vocals, and an accordian... somehow they all complemented each other.

Unlike today when there was, again, that so very discordant free form jazz - or something claiming to be - on the piano... too much pounding and pounding and pounding.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

another day, unlike the other

Today I was to have my re-scheduled interview. However I received a text with a rather odd request. Apparently the woman's daughter was home school and so she would not be taking her to school - we were to meet at the metro station near her kindergarten.

She wanted to meet today as she had to cancel yesterday as her son was sick. She asked if I could still show up as... she had arranged with her neighbor to pick me up when he picked up his daughter who goes to the same kindergarten - he drives rather than take public transport. He would then drive me to her house where I could then be interviewed.

I passed.

I was starting to think I've somehow jinxed myself as this was the 4th interview this week that had to be canceled or rescheduled - and it was stressing me out as I really need a job.

Then I tried to relax as I had another interview scheduled for the afternoon. I took care of a number of things and finally left, early in case there were any mishaps on the way.

I followed the directions and could not find the street - when you get out in a square it seems that all the streets boarding the square are marked with the name of the square and I could not find the street names anywere - so I walked up and down the streets (there were over 6 as lots of streets converged at one spot on the square) and when I thought I\d found the right place the name wasn't listed on the door. So I took out my phone and scrolled through to find her number, and gave her a call.

She answered but she wasn't at work - she was sick and leaving the doctor - however she was on her way and asked me to wait at the tram stop for her. Ten minutes later she arrived and we walked down a street I hadn't previously noticed and she started telling me she's got something and had to pick up her anti-biotics on the way over and how lousy she feels - she's been sick on and off on a regular basis since she arrived.

Great. I've already been sick twice since we've arrived and really don't want to catch anything further.

We find the building and then walk up 6 flights of stairs (giant ceilings - again) and find the office space. It's a tiny little room but we sat down and she sort of rushed through how the classes are held, gave me some texts and slotted me in for Monday and Wednesday nights - school starts the second of October and I have intermediate students in a tiny little room and the teachers handbook to review - she said there is minimal class preparation and it's taught in a spoken format - question and answer, engaging the students rather than parsing verbs and such - more practical than test prep stuff.

So I have a job - not a bit one, just a little one, but it will help. She's going to try to get another level course for me to teach so I can have 3 classes instead of just the 2. She never asked me for a thing - no references, she's already viewed my resume, and she goes to my school. She didn't ask me to do a sample lesson or anything. I was there for less than 15 minutes and next week I go to get my keys.

After our meeting I met Coral to give her money as she forgot some and had promised Yaamir a treat for behaving all week. And then I came to school and discovered that my co-worker never bothered to show up today... the computer lab has been closed all day, and after I opened it only 3 people came in - I'm leaving now. Usually at least 10, 12 people cycle through her in the time I've been here, but they're the same people who come earlier in the day too - and I think they came by and just figured it wasn't going to open today. So, the nights been pretty slow. Now, though, it's time for me to go home and make dinner and check Coral's homework before we watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My really not so great day

I was ready for today about 10 last night. Anticipating the process and the progress I would make - school, job interview, etc.

Well, I got started on time and found I had extra time with which I could do some picking up. As I was sweeping and tidying up my phone went off - I found it stuffed away in my bag - actually in the purse in my bag, which I had to pull out and rifle through in order to get to my phone. It was my interview - we must reschedule as her son is sick.

Not a problem - it will take place tomorrow instead.

So I had more extra time - I chose to do some laundry as I would be home in order to hang it to dry, and mop the floors. Well the wash took slightly longer than I anticipated and then hanging everything took longer too - I had a queen sheet and other clothes and wanted to make sure the sheet would dry... I wouldn't be home to move or readjust it to follow the sun so it took a tiny bit of thought.

Not a problem. Figured it out.

At that point I needed to leave. I gathered my books and my bag and walked out the door and down the hall. I went back and picked up the lap top to take to school with me for the first time - that took some thought as my backpack is broken and it really weighs down my shoulder bag - but today was going to be a test run and I still had time for leisurely walking. Out the door again.

Realized I needed to use the restroom before the next hour expired and so went back inside. Left again and got to the bus stop - perfect timing. Got on and took a seat. I reached in to my bag to locate my purse - I have a little hook in my purse I lock my keys on to they're neither lost nor stolen. I realized at that point that I never put my purse back in my bag. Not a big deal was my first thought and then panic hit - NOT a big deal? HUGE DEAL!

My metro pass is inside my purse! The metro police are definitely making their presence known and without a pass or the cash to pay the fine on the spot it's an 800 crown charge! I think, in an attempt to squelsh the rising panic, I'll just buy a day pass. Wrong - along with my metro pass, inside my purse is my phone, my computer lab password, and my money and bank cards - all things I need today. And I realized I was riding illegally at that moment.

So, I got off at the first stop and tried to cross the street catch the next bus back home so I could get my purse. Interesting note here - the bus stops although named in pairs are not set on the road as pairs. I was at the bottom of a very steep hill and found I had to walk up the hill on a very hot day carrying a very heavy bag. I made it up just as the bus arrived. I ran on, got off at my home stop, rushed home, and grabbed my purse. I also left the laptop at home this time as I knew I would be rushing - class started in 30 minutes.

I ran back out, down the street, up the hill, down the stairs, on to the first bus and realized - I don't know if this bus gets to my metro!

For the past few days the bus line has not been going to the metro stop - we've had to take an alternate route in order to get there - it was supposed to be back to normal after the 9th but I couldn't remember what day it was. I was on the moving bus and approached the driver to ask - my words were:

Skalka, ano? Skalka?

Meaning, Skalka, yes? Skalka?

He just stared at me like I was a freak - not even a look of recognition at the word Skala - which is a metro stop. I just gave up and took a seat and stressed. Everyone on the bus was staring at me like I was the circus clown at a funeral. I was hot and sweaty and frustrated and wanted to be elsewhere - specifically at school at that moment.

I stayed on the bus and yes, it did go to the metro stop I wanted - which was NOT Skalka - when I said Skalka I meant to say Strasnicka - my bad. No wonder why he didn't register my question - not only was I not able to form a complete question I was not communicating.

I got on the metro at Strasnicka and off again at Mala Strana - my school metro stop. From there I take the tram - which I was rushing to get to. I could see it and started to run, turned my ankle the slightest bit - not enough to really hurt just to make me think - and dropped in to a fast walk, thinking that the doors are open now and people are loading but I'm across a courtyard and 2 lanes of traffic and will never make it. As I got closer and closer the doors were still open so I hurried again and 2 steps away the doors closed. I walked on, and the doors re-opened to allow another person on but I was too far. Not to worry, I thought - I can see the next 2 trams coming right now - only 1/2 block away.

Yes - there were 2 trams only 1/2 block away, and people started lining up. Those 2 trams became 3 became 5 and then I couldn't see how many were backed up. What I could see after a moment was that there had been an accident blocking the tram line and not a single tram could move.

I was stuck on the tram platform debating whether it would be faster to wait it out or to start walking. The debate was raging when I saw the police start moving cars in order to let the trams through. So I waited. And waited and waited and finally a tram came that I could take and I got on and got off at my stop and raced down to school - and in to a class that I had not previously attended but which was in full swing.

It was a classroom where everyone is facing the door - which isn't just a door in wall that you walk through, but a door with a little balconey and stairs you have to walk down - an entrance is required.

The teacher stopped teaching, asked my name, it wasn't on the roster as I'm an add, and then once I was seated he asked again and introduced me to the class, as in,

'Class this is Jennifer, Jennifer, you're class'

We, no, they talked about Durkheim for 2 hours and then touched on Marx and vaguely Engles for the last 30 minutes - we'll be studying Marx next week. I have a base level of familiarity with Durkheim but not enough to add to the discussion. I wasn't able to prepare for the class is there isn't a text - everything is based upon handouts and response questions and other situations arising from classroom discussions.

The teacher is cool. He referenced Star Wars and incorporated a Yoda impression in to a teaching example.

He's smart and interesting a portion of the time, but then he reads his notes and that drives me bonkers.

I just got my schedule for Friday and will be working from 9 till 9. I ordered a salad for dinner today and they gave me 2 spoons to eat it with. I do not have the laptop and so am not able to take care of the things on it that needed taking care of, and most of the computers in the lab are not working at the moment.

The plus side - I have plenty of time to read and am averaging about a book every 36 to 48 hours - the downside - english language paperbacks cost around $30 USD here. I am getting familiar with the school library.

It's only 4 pm and I'm tired and ready to go back home.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the musicality of my location

I can't remember if I've posted pics of the buildings surrounding my school - Mozart and Beethoven both lived in the immediate area - directly across the street from the main school building.

There is a strong musical heritage here - opera is huge, numerous orchestral performances on a daily basis, and so. The Prague Philharmonica is about to perform a Hollywood retrospective - I believe they will be performing pieces for films they have worked on... something like that.

Anyway - my location - across the street from the building I work in, the computer lab, is a music school. Not just a teacher or two holding classes after the school day, but numerous teachers conducting lessons all day long. It's quite a cacophony of sound, let me assure you. I've heard angelic singing, some of the most beautiful voices around, terrible Queen covers, some even worse Greenday, and someone banging away on the piano so I couldn't tell if it was intentional, as in some sort of modern disjointed and jarring composition, or a small child just bang, bang, banging till their heart's content.

Every day is different - I come and go at different times, but I am sure after a while with a steady schedule I will come recognize, audibly, not visually, the various students and who to expect when I arrive, and what hours I should avoid, and just stay inside.

All and all - it's a wonderful way to be greeted - choral or symphonic music as I walk to work, every day. Let's just keep the Free Bird to a minimum.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


So, I have a babysitting job. I pick up a little boy every weekday after school several blocks away and take him to a McDonald's a couple of metro stops away and wait for his dad to pick him up from there. Sounds easy right? It isn't. He is driving me insane. The first day he was wonderful, compliant and polite. Then, he started becoming difficult and disobedient, making it hard for me to keep an eye on him, or keep him near. I've considered quitting over and over again, and I've only done this three times. It's ridiculous. Unfortunately, the pay is decent, so I don't want to quit. I'd like the extra spending money. So, I'm staying. And desperately hoping he calms down.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Elevator and other electronics

Those confining clumsy gods have had their eyes on us this week. With a week full of various mishaps and other nonsense the two that stand out are as follows:

Coral got stuck in the elevator in our building on her way home from school. Please keep in mind that nobody near us speaks english. NOBODY. Fortunately it kicked in again and she was able to depart the elevator after on a short period of confinement. Stressful but not catastrophic.

Then, the following morning, after she had taken a shower and while I was taking my turn, in an effort to get out the door and on our way to school - Coral blew the fuse in our house with our American hairdryer. All the proper adapters were in place but the dryer just hasn't been happy over here. I think it is pretty attached to Heatherglen. Anyway - the fuse blew, and as I was in the tub I tried directing her on how to fix it - she flipped fuses back and forth and back again and nothing happened.

Then we realized we didn't have power at all - our entire apartment was dead. Nothing we did fixed it. I tried - after I was thoroughly dry as I had no need to tempt the electricity gods towards electorocution. Nothin goin.

We had to leave for school and so we did. Wet head and without power.

Twelve hours later we made our way home and were fortunately met by my landlord who was coming over to turn on the power and collect rent. I was expecting him and need to make a run to the ATM for the cash (that's how they do it - he collects rent in cash in person) so in the dark I felt around for my ATM cards, yes 2 as I need to use both to finagle my way around the cash withdrawal limit. I ran over to the ATM in the rain and moments later Coral called to tell me he had arrived.

I proceeded to battle the ATM - it really didn't want to work for me - but I finally got what I could off my first card and went to use the second and discovered I had grabbed Coral's insurance card in the dark.

I ran back to home in the rain and we had power again. Turns out there is another fuse box in the hall for which we need some funky screw called a screwdiver but in no way resembling one. I gave him what I had on me, and rather than wait he'll be back on Monday for the rest.

The elevator broke again this morning. I bought a new hairdryer this afternoon.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Necessary walking

This little bit is an excerpt from an email I wrote my Mom - I realized I hadn't shared my daily walks with you...

We live 3 blocks from the bus stop when we're going in to town - uphill and up stairs.

Coral's school is roughly 6, maybe 8 blocks away from the metro.

My school is maybe 4 blocks from the tram stop.

My classes are on the first and second floors - the bathrooms are on the 3rd - I work on the second floor two buildings over from the bathrooms - yes -i've been going down the stairs, around the church, and up 3 flights of stairs to go to the bathroom - I just found out there is a bathroom in my building only few steps down the stairs. (However that bathroom doesn't have a light or toilet paper or paper towels)

When we get home we go roughly 4 blocks, again up hill, and up more stairs in order to get to our street.

We live on the 4th floor. (The elevator has broken twice since we've lived there. The second time was today while Coral was inside.)

The cafe and small grocery store are about 3 blocks away, the large groceries stores require a different bus, also about 3 blocks away.

Coral's classrooms are on the 2 or 3rd floor - or around the corner from the main school. She babysits a little boy she picks up about 8 or 9 blocks from her school and about 6 blocks from the metro.

The stairs i'm talking about are not to get you up above a room with an 8 or a 10 foot ceiling - these are probably 20 foot ceilings in the main school buildling, at least on the bottom floors.

Every metro has stairs too.

In otherwords - there is an insane amount of climbing and walking being done on a daily basis - this doesn't even take in to consideration general errands and touristy stuff - this is just the must do stuff

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Classes are just getting started - and my schedule is changing like crazy - first off I've transferred in to the masters program and have dropped all my BA classes. Coral has had to switch schools and now I am aggressively looking for a job so I can make tuition for both of us - and then I dropped my Czech class so I have more time to work - it was the only 2 day a week class I had and had some odd hours.

Anyway - the heading here is diversity - I was thinking about my classmates. So far I've met students from Albania, Georgia (the one that was just invaded by Russia, not the state in the US), Montenegro, Serbia, Slovakia, Germany, Prague, Scotland, England, and I\m not sure where else.

At dinner I met people from Poland, Slovakia, Ireland, England, and Malaysia...

Coral's met a few teachers at her school - from Oregon and Petaluma. Oh yes, I've also met people here from Petaluma and Danville - girls in the Czech class.

And that's just a start. There's a guy who works in the library from Texas - but his brother is in the Navy and is stationed in Lemore. And so much more. A lot of french speakers, I think I heard some Italian, and English is everywhere in the buildings - with more accents than I knew existed. A lot with a British undertone but that' because most Europeans have British english teachers.