Sunday, March 29, 2009

God likes to Boogie-Woogie When You You Aren't Looking

So I was with my friend Kate in the metro, and there was a lapse in our conversation. She looked at the advertisement on the wall to our left and starting laughing, and then asked me if I knew what it said. (It was in Czech, so I couldn't understand it, but she's fluent so...yeah.Anyways-) So it apparently says something along the lines of "God likes to Boogie Woogie in your head and dance and be happy.: Rough translation, doesn't really cross over perfectly, I guess.

It was hilarious.

I have no idea what the ad was for.

Ahh, the ways of the Czech Republic.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sedlec Ossuary

Check out the link... kinda creepy - but you should be so proud of my MOM!!!

due to in increase in anonymous crazy person traffic I've removed the link - if you know me and want to see (then you're one of the people the link was truly intended for - add me on FB or send me an email.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Can I weather the weather?

Today is March 19. The spring actually starts tomorrow, not the first FULL day, but the first partial day of spring. Tomorrow.

Today it is snowing. Again.

Yesterday it was sunny and bright.

We are moving backwards here.

I really want to NOT have to wear my winter jacket anymore, and maybe make do with less than three layers.

I miss the sun.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Voluntary Deportment for the Unemployed - FOR FREE!

Wow - if you're in CR and jobless they don't want you here SO MUCH that they're willing to pay to get rid of you! Sign up and get a free flight home PLUS a 500 Euro spending allowance. Seriously. Limited time only!!

Don't believe me? Here's the article.... Nashla la vista baby!!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Job situation deteriorates...

Here's the summary - prior to Christmas break my primary source of Czech income came from pre-school - I taught in 2 locations and also had one adult English course. I was offered another adult class and so left one pre-school as it pays a great deal less.

I was guaranteed at least 2 full adult classes with the option for private tutorials as well. The private tutorials mentioned by the school administrator never came to fruition but that's ok, that's not why I readjusted my schedule.

Last month the owner canceled my class. Well over a third of my income is gone. I've been searching for other options but nothing viable has appeared yet.

Today I realized the same owner has not paid me for a full month's worth of work - for both courses that I teach. That is about 80% of my income. That's sort of what I live on (groceries and bills and other sundries, not rent) and pay tuition with.

I am pretty upset right now. I contacted the administrator who informed me she's not been paid either, and even though she's emailed the owner (who lives in another country) he's not responded to the last 3 emails.

I'm feeling pretty screwed right now. Not very happy at all!!! SO far from cool.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Uhh, what was that??

I went grocery shopping yesterday at the neighborhood market - not a large juice selection there so I carefully picked out a bottle of iced tea with lemon. I was REALLY looking forward to a nice cool refreshing glass of iced tea with my dinner.

But when I poured myself a cup it had a head on it. Like a beer. And I wondered - did they bottle the wrong amber colored liquid in my bottle? But the head settled rather quickly and I attributed it to.... I don't know what but I let it go.

Until I took a sip.

It was carbonated. But not like a soda. More like a mildly bubbly mineral water had been used to make the iced. tea.

In case you were wondering - yuck.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

He's BACK!

The remote control helicopter man is BACK! A sure sign that spring is springing in all sorts of ways!

some sun!!

I am grateful for today.

Actually, I'm grateful for every day, but today the sun shared the tiniest glimpse of the light and warmth is has to offer - and that has made ALL the difference!

For the past week or so I've been feeling not quite right. Not sick, not low, just aching and tired and tight and with a large empty lead balloon in my stomach. Headachey. Blagh.

Today, Saturday, was bright and cheerful. I opened the windows, scrubbed the floors, had lunch with Ray (whose wife was kind enough to lend him for some heavy lifting stuff) and finished assembling the stuff from Ikea (that was the heavy lifting).

We talked about the beauty of the weather and he was thrilled, stating that with another degree or two he'd be in his shorts and t-shirt. While I was thinking - ah, this is like California in the winter (when it's not raining, mind you). Cold, clear, crisp. Shiny.

He's from England. I am obviously not. Almost as much as I appreciated the beauty of the weather I appreciated our totally different ideas of shorts and t-shirts qualifications. After translating from C to F, I realized that for him 60F is definitely within the shorts and t-shirts range... actually he dropped it even further, to about 55F but that's' so ridiculous that I think the sunlight must have dazzled his brain and he was confused.

Either way, today there was hope for the spring. I need it. This winter gray is killing me. I can deal with the cold now, but the sunlight has been in short supply. And without the sun.... well, we all know that without the sun things die.

And I rather enjoy living. :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

another coincidence - well, two

I have a large family, and it's not uncommon to be someplace new and find someone we're connected to...

Here are two examples - one discovered a few months ago, one this week:

My brother from California, USA, goes to school in Montreal, Canada. He has a schoolmate, a good friend, from Prague, Czech Republic. She asked Brother why he had pictures of her Czech friends popping up on his Facebook (or something like that)and it turns out that Coral was tagged in a few photos with some of Coral's friends. Who are also the Czech girl in Canada's friends too. We have all moved to different countries and my brother, his friend, and Coral find themselves entangled with friendships.

I have cousins from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, one of whom goes to school in Maryland. She is apparently involved in greek life at her uni. Here we don't have that, but we do have lots of American exchange students. Some are from a school in Maryland. Where they are involved in greek life. With my cousin. We're from opposites sides of the country, haven't seen her in years, currently live on different continents, yet we go to school with the same people.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crazy Coincidences!!

Ever Monday evening at the start of class I ask the guys how their weekend went. I give a brief overview of mine - it went like this (the three of them) family, friends, cross country skiing... (and me) hiking in the mountains, lodge with friends.

It wasn't until the tram ride home when I asked Marek how he got the scrapes on his chin that we discovered we were both up on Snezka on Sunday. He was cross country skiing all weekend with his cousins and brother up on the same mountain as me. We stayed on opposite sides.

What was even funnier (to me) was when we discovered that he had to sleep on the floor of his lodge in his sleeping bag... while I got a bunk for my sleeping bag and I paid less. Everything at my lodge was less - and closer to the peak as well.

He got the scrapes on his face when he crashed in to a tree. Bummer

Next time he'll stay at Jelenka - which by the way means Deer - as in Deer Lodge.

I forgot!

There are so many things I keep meaning to write about but I keep forgetting them when I get a chance so sit in front of the computer.

So, I'm hoping that by starting to write something will come back and the words will flow. As of yet, no such luck.



WAIT! For all you potential tourists or possible locals - I got carded 3 or 4 times on the metro the other day - all over the city! AND for those of you who are confident that the transit people never get the police involved... well you're wrong! At Florenc there were at least 8 transit officers and another 6 police officers - and the people who weren't paying or were being difficult were being handed straight over to the cops. I've never seen anything like it before! CRAZY!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Watch out for the coffee - man!

Today was miserably wet and cold... one of those bone chilling colds. I started it off running to be on time, and not thrilled with my prospects for the rest of the day. That, fortunately was a misapprehension. The day got better, and the improvement started like this...

I got off the tram at Mala Strana and tried to cut across before the tram left so I could catch the next light... that didn't work. Another tram was coming for the opposite direction, and by the time that had passed my tram was moving. I was forced to wait for a moment and I'm glad I did.

Rounding the corner towards the tram stop was a young guy - clean cute, 20s-ish, good looking, and wearing a green Starbucks apron under an open jacket. (FYI Starbucks is immediately at the tram stop, so in the scenario, directly behind me, across the tram tracks.)

He had a large pack on his bag, and I figured he was probably on his way to work and traveling - either he had been or was about to be.

Until he stopped at the red person light and pulled out a hose. I caught his profile about then. and could make out that he had a monstrously large pack on his back.... and noticed he had a cup on his hands.

As I approached through the intersection, as the cars cleared, the whole gathering of people I had been sharing the corner with started to twitter.

He had a coffee urn, no, a coffee tank, strapped to his back and was handing out free cups of coffee! The thing was a behemouth! Bigger than the giant utility size coffee pots they use in fast food places and churches... bigger than the utility brewing coffee pots - and he as happy and smiling while handing out free Starbucks first thing on a Monday morning.

I passed, but it was pretty darn cool!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The price of food

Recently a CS friend asked to go grocery shopping with me. As life turned out I felt sick and canceled the trip. But I had to make a run to the market anyway.

Here is a photo of what I bought. The total came to about 440kc, which roughly translates to about $20USD - just under on this particular day.

If you can't figure out what's in there ask - I kept the receipt, thinking I'd write it out, but realized it's in Czech and I can't read it. :)

Wait - I looked - there is milk, eggs, 2 liters of water, orange soda, 6 chicken breasts, some ground beef, butter, 6 baguettes of varieing sizes, 2 packets of ham and one of chicken, pasta sauce, 2 cans of tomato paste/sauce stuff, maybe a pastry, some veggies, and I don't know what else....

Jelenka and Senzka - updated!

This past Friday I took a little journey - this will be broken up in to a few entries as I'm tired and there was too much to write right now.

I showed up at instructed at Rolf's at 10 and rang the bell. No one answered. I rang again. No response. A young gentleman made his way out of the building and let me know Rolf (Sweden) was at the office.

We were supposed to be loading the car for the trip to Snezka.

I didn't have his phone number.

I texted my friends and hoped someone would have his number so I could call and find out what was going on. I waited for a response. None came. I waited some more and started to questions my sanity - had I got the date wrong, the time, imagined the whole event??? Finally, Rolf came walking up the hill - he was at his Czech lesson.

A short while later Ricardo and Laura (both from Portugal) also showed up - and we had a text from Alexey (Ukraine) that had missed his bus and would be late. I had already put my things in the trunk, and Ricardo and Laura left theirs downstairs. We went upstairs to chat while we waited.

About 45 minutes later Laura retrieved her phone to check on Alexey. It turns out, Alexey got there on time but didn't know Rolf's name so didn't know which bell to ring. Since we were at the Ambassador's residence he didn't want to start ringing the bells, asking for Rolf.

Finally we loaded up the car and headed up towards Snezka. The drive was beautiful, full of pleasant and engaging conversation, and I managed to squeeze in a quick nap - being a passenger always puts me to sleep.

It turns out the path to Snezka is not as easy to find as we'd thought. We drove and parked at the Polish border, loaded up our gear and then hiked down the road, through the town downhill. At a totally random spot, at least to my eyes - and Laura's as well - Rolf announced that we were at the trail. Alexey agreed and climbed up the snow bank to check it out - he promptly fell about waist deep. We decided that wasn't the trail and hiked back up the road.

Alexey trying to find the trail, after he climbed out of the hole.

After asking a few locals we were directed back up the road, uphill, to where we'd come from, and then through the houses. Apparently that's where the trail began. However, I don't think anyone informed the trail that it was in fact a trail as there wasn't any grooming or a snowpack. I managed to fall through the snow at least half a dozen times - not just an ankle or a knee, but fall through to my hips and thighs. What was supposed to be a 3.5 or 4K hike to the lodge turned in to probably about a 5K with the back and forth stuff. But the trail hike itself, the 3.5 to 4K hike - it managed to take us about 3 hours.

Not fun. In fact, the sun had set by the time we found the lodge. It was rather uncomfortable for me as there are not what I consider clear markers for the trail - the upper portion was groomed and it was clear you walk in the open areas, but you check your path by some paint stripes on the trees - not really great indicators when the there isn't any light.

We had a great night - Mario (US), Gerard (Holland), and Jara (Spain) were already there... we had an evening of laughter, drinking, good food, and silliness... which carried over to the next day.

Saturday I lent Jara my boots as she only had cloth tennis shoes, and Alexey took the snowshoes. The weather was miserable, the fog thick, visibility maybe 20 meters, at the most. Yet, a small group of the guys ascended the rest of the mountain to make it to the actual Snezka cottage - there was tremendous wind and it was about -20C. I stuck around the lodge and waited for the rest of the crew.... venturing out for a few photos...

Another great day of filled with laughter and camaraderie - we played Finnish scrabble (no Q's or Z's and with strange vowels) and after another great meal we all played Uno and general silliness ensued.

receiving assistance from his coach.

There was a lot of confusion about the bus routes and return time lines, but in the end, Mario, Gerard, and Jara left early on Sunday to ski while the rest of us went hiking.

trying to read the maps and time lines for Sunday.

I opted not to push myself too hard as I knew we had to hike back to the car, and went part of the way to Snezka and then on my own private hike. Everyone else continued and the day was ideal - the wind was stronger the higher you went, but the sky was clear and the sun strong.

After we all gathered and had lunch we said goodbye to Daniel, a CSer who was the motivation for the trip as he is working at the cabin for the winter. Then we left - Rolf left alone, first, as he wanted to get to the car and meet us at an alternate trail... I left with Kathleen, Ange, and Pavlina, followed shortly by Alexey, Ricardo, and Laura. We took the yellow trail, as we had on the way up, but turned off after a short bit on to the green.

Jelenka on the last day - the sun was bright and the sky so clear I felt like sunbathing in the snow.

The hike that had taken us over 3 hours to make took us less than 45 minutes to undo - and this includes the time we stopped for photos and conversations.

early back at the road

It was a wonderful, refreshing, and rejuvenating journey - a bit of a challenge for me, but an eyeopener at the same time. I'm in a country with an incredibly fit and and active outdoorsy population and would like to make that more of my life.

Crazy, huh?

eginning of the trip by Ricardo

Friday, March 6, 2009

Holy Chocolate Cow!

I cannot WAIT to be back in Prague. I didn't know I could want something this much. A couple of weeks ago, I was at the point where you want something SO badly, that you start to think that it just might magically happen. But, it didn't. :( Which, I have to say, really bummed me out.

It's weird how I can be in a place for so little a time, but love it so much. Though, I think that almost all of it is the fact that my mom is there. It may sound sad to all you independent people, but I have to say, I want my mom. This has been, by far, the longest period of time that I've been away from my mom. I think the runner up was about three weeks. This has been almost 3 months. Slight difference, I know.

Two more weeks. Just two.

Let's hope I make it.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Say what???

I sit in an office with one other man. My Czech boss. The common language of the building is English. All communication, documentation, etc is English. Yet, sitting in this one room it is amazing to have conversations suddenly switch, and then jump around, back and forth, with bits of different languages thrown in there - between English, French, Italian, and Czech. Step outside the door to my closet and you'll get Serbian, Macedonian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Portuguese, and Russian thrown in too.

And by step outside, I mean literally, open the door and step outside.

I feel like I'm at such a disadvantage only having one language to express myself, unable to pick and choose the words from the world that most precisely reflect my thoughts and feelings.

After elementary Czech I really want to learn (ok, re-learn) French.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sněžka... info

The lead up.....Sněžka Oh yeah... THIS is actually where we'll be staying.... good luck with the translations! If you can figure out what is says please let me know.

It's where I'm headed for the weekend. Bought a big ol' rucksack to shove my stuff in as it's a 3K (or 5K depending on the weather) hike from where we park up to the lodge... in the snow.... on a mountain... at -10C.... and some serious wind blowin about too.

Fun. :)

(for those of you reading who may not be super tech savvy... go back up and click on the blue link, Sněžka, for more info...)

SIDENOTE - and this is pretty crazy! I just got a CS request from some girl named.... Jenny Kline.... I know the spelling is wrong... and it's not my last name.... but I think those of you who are meant to get it GET IT!


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

First trip to the mountains

This weekend I'm taking my first real journey outside Prague - headed up to Snezka to what is supposedly the highest mountain in the Czech Republic.

We being the group of CSers who have opted to go... about 14 of us I think. I've only met 2 or 3 of them previously.

The cost for two nights of lodging, a little less than $20. Dinner tops out around $5, with breakfast being a bit less than that. In preparation I have to find snowshoes to rent as it's a 3K hike from the car to the lodge where we're staying. I also should find some poles, locate my good gloves, my missing long john, and ensure I have LOTS and LOTS of extra socks and a much warmer hat than my orange one... and one that fits unlike the Choate hat.

I need to get a big backpack, which I need anyway, as the bags I have are too big and bulky to hike with... and I need to decide if I'm riding in the car, which would put it at maximum capacity, or taking the bus and train with this guy I've met a few times. Neither of us have been to Snezka before, and I have no idea how to use the bus and train systems, and we're both relatively new Americans, me without czech skills, he has somewhat stronger grasp... so the bus/train route could be a bit more exciting... whereas the car option will be nice, warm, I'm guaranteed a seat for a multi-hour ride, and I think they know where they're going, a few of them have lived here for a few years, and they all come from Europe - Sweden, Ukraine, Portugal, and ???... right now the car option is looking pretty good. I'm in to knowing I won't have to stand for 5 hours or 8, depending on how life happens...

I'm bringing the camera. Pics for you next week! :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beginning Impact of the Economic Crisis

I haven't really written much about this yet, but it's a near daily topic of conversation with my peers and associates.

I'll back track. Starting in October there was fear. In November my friends were facing not just fear, as in unfounded fear, but had been informed jobs were going to be cut.. and a few were. In December more and more people lost their positions - many people I know. There had been hiring rushes and everyone who had been hired just about 3 months previously were let go before their positions became secure. The hiring continues, with the same 3 month termination point.

January it got worse. February's been horrible with friends throughout Europe losing their jobs and unable to find work - even looking for positions with drastic pay cuts and unable to secure a job. March is not going to be any better. Companies with 5 years worth of operating resources are cutting their staff too.

How does this impact me? Well, first, the swing of the dollar is tremendous. Right now it's for my benefit but I don't know how much longer to expect that.

Second - I teach English which is a major skill asset. I've had students who were employed and their employers paid for their lessons... who've since lost their positions and no longer attend.

Next - I have students who've lost their job and came to me for private tutoring as they worked on the skills while searching for a new position. They've since found that position and so have cut back on their lessons.

Finally, I have had students who've not had a change in their employment but are cutting back on extras as they are facing potential lay-offs... and so they no longer attend.


They've cut the classes that aren't generating the revenue they want. I'm actually facing losing my pre-school position too, as they had hoped for more students to enroll, and while one has they wanted a few more. They're profitable but not as profitable as they'd hoped for.

It's stressful. One the one hand I've been looking for new positions to fill the lost income, and on the other I am sorta hoping for more turmoil that leads to an increase in the rise of the dollar that will further offset the lost income without having to take another position and run all over the city for 16 hours each day and allow me to have a more manageable life schedule once Coral gets back. I'm tired.