Wednesday, April 29, 2009

URGH!!!! work!!!

if in the intervening hours you've read the work woo hoo post, well forget it! Apparently the students didn't like the teacher and so they were replacing him... but they want to finish with the same teacher as they're almost done... so they no longer need a replacement. Which means...

I DON'T HAVE A JOB!!!!

And I was just told by the agency that I need to come up with a 3,000 penalty (for doing exactly what the Czech Consulate told me to do) in addition to the 7,000 crowns it will cost me to renew my visa.... that's 10,000 crowns that needs to magically appear.

And it's raining.

Yucky moment in a not so terrific day. Blah.

work - woo hoo!!

Well I got an email from the owner confirming the school I've been teaching at is no longer functioning. Which is okay on the one hand as I'd told my class tonight was my last class - I haven't been paid for March yet and so wasn't expecting to be paid for April at this point, either. On the other I've lost the potential for earning and my teaching resources.

The owner went on to say he would like to meet me on Monday (our very first meeting) and will pay me for both months, March and April, then. Woo hoo! That is Coral's tuition for May! Right on! Of course, I'm out of a job at the same time.

NOT SO FAST!

While I don't have nearly enough hours to compensate for the loss of income from this position I DID just get another job teaching at another school, a more established one, and will be making a bit more on an hourly rate but less over all as less hours.... however, it's work and I'll have some sort of income and that is a very good thing!!!

And I have a potential lead for tutoring a young teen on Saturdays... we will see.

Monday, April 27, 2009

flat debate and the BS job debacle

Uh... that whole request for input fell FLAT!!! not one little bit of advice?? unreal!! never mind you people!

Wait - I think there might be a comment on FB... Yes, there is a comment attached to my brother's post about his new apartment as he is moving too... funny thing that, we're both in uni, living outside our homeland, in countries that start with a "C", and moving to new homes... on the opposite side of the ocean.

So, I still haven't viewed flat #2 but I'm not going to. I made up my mind - flat #1. We will meet on Saturday for Coral to see it and do the paperwork.


I had the interview yesterday and should hear back today as the position starts Thursday and the teacher needs time to prepare a new class.

I had it confirmed at my present main job that no one has been paid this month. No one. And the owner is not responding. Last month he came through almost 3 weeks late, this is now 4 weeks and WRONG! It's ridiculously wrong. So Wednesday is my last day. If you happen to read this and are considering an English school in Prague - the initials are B.S. - and they're an accurate description!

Friday, April 24, 2009

hunt for a new home

My year lease is ending in a month. Yes, I know I haven't been here a year but I've had a flat I've been paying rent on for a year now, and the one year lease I signed is coming to an end.

We live fairly remote from the center and I'd like to change that. Today I was scheduled to see two flats. Scheduled, mind you.

Flat #1 - this flat is 1,000kc more a month than what I pay right now (translates roughly to $50 USD). HOWEVER - it is cute, clean, adorable, and right in the center - less than 5 minutes from Mustek (in Wenceslas Square), literally around the corner from the Vodickova tram stop. We would be 15 minutes from our lives' focal points rather than 45. It is 1 bedroom, with 2 beds, a large living room and separate kitchen/dining area, with a side room for storage (former maid quarter, literally the size of a twin bed), another storage room, an American style shower/tub combo, and entry way. No terrace but plenty of windows. To get there you open a metal gate (it is opened during the day as businesses function on the zero floor) walk through the courtyard, crossing a cement parking area, enter the building on the opposite side and walk up to the 2nd floor.

Flat #2 - not as immediately accessible - from Mala Strana it's 17 minutes by tram. Not remote either, and only one tram stop fro the red line (we don't use that though), and maybe 25 minutes total to CISP (it takes Coral about 25 minutes right now not counting walking time.... so close to the same.) However, that's all I can tell you about this one as I got lost on my way, my battery died, and I missed the realtor. It's listed as 2,000 kc less than what I"m paying right now but doesn't include non-necessity utilities like the other one. To get there you open the door to the apartment building on the street - unknown if there is a lift or not, or what floor it's on.

Flat #1 - above and beyond the basic utilities it includes cable and internet and a tv and very complete modern furnishings - TONS of storage space both built in and with wardrobes
Flat #2 - includes basic utilities

Flat #1 - no commission fee, a deposit only
Flat #2 - deposit plus a commission fee of 50% of the total monthly fees (I think that will be about 7,500kc)

Flat #1 - very friendly owner, he showed it to me, willing to purchase and supply whatever we need - bedding, blankets, furnishings, etc.
Flat #2 - no idea as the owner is not involved in the rental process

Flat #1 - location - in the middle of the city but buffered from the noise by being the building inside the courtyard - cement, unattractive building with views on to flat unattractive roofs and a parking lot - very convenient to shops, restaurants, food stands, clubs, etc...
Flat #2 - situated 2 blocks from the tram, across a park and a playground, the building faces on to a well-kept school, quite attractive, quiet location... it has one neighborhood mini-shop but not a convenient grocery store, close to Cross Club, not far from Letna, near the Tesla Stadium

Here's the deal - I need what money I have to pay tuition. I am working like crazy and taxing my body and looking for a new job to replace the old ones... I have an interview on Monday to teach 1 lesson a week but at a higher rate than any of my other lessons (yay!). I am also trying to find something else to supplement us while I am in school. Fifty USD goes a lot farther here than you probably realize. It makes a big difference - I'm not getting child support, and am trying to function on my own (but props to Mom who just helped me get current with Coral's tuition and took a bit of pressure off my back!) - I think the flat closer to town would be a good choice. The difference in rent is technically 1,000 crowns, but our internet costs almost 800 crowns, so it's more like 200 crowns in actuality.

I would really appreciate thoughts and input as I should make a decision soon.

Thanks!

more english experiences

Last night I stopped at the Tescco (sort of like Target or something, but with a large grocery/bakery/produce section) at Narodni Trida. They are currently renovating the grocery level (-1) so the food has been moved up to the 0 level and everything there is really crowded. However I found the few things I needed for a small pre-concert gathering and made my way in to line.

While I was standing in line a man behind me caught my attention and then asked, "Excuse me, do you speak English?". "Yes" I replied. Then he gestured to a poster above my head with an image of a pen and a few words and continued. "What does that say?" "I have no idea" I responded.

"But you speak English, it's... you... what...," he stuttered. "Yes, I speak English, but..." I started. "Oh, you don't speak Czech" he interjected.

"Right."

So he turned to the guy behind him and asked again - and had the same conversation, almost word for word. So he turned to the woman next to that guy, and then to another guy, and then back to me - he'd asked at least 4 or 5 individuals if they spoke English - we all did - and then asked them to translate the poster - not one of us could read it.

He started laughing about how he couldn't find a Czech in the Czech Republic but that everyone in the world speaks English.
I felt kind of bad for him as he really wanted a direct translation of the poster, and I - and one other guy - were only able to give a very vague idea.... something new, something something something, something else, 3rd floor.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

the sounds of english

last night i was supposed to meet a few friends after my class. due to my delayed start (fully attributable to my stupidity in not actually checking the time table and just expecting my tram that usually stops at the stop there to stop - when it fact it ended service hours earlier) it was quite a while before i actually left. and it started raining.

i persevered.

and caught a different tram to the metro depot where i had to wade through crowds to access the actual metro station... and here is what prompted this bit of writing...

as in any big city there is constant noise, siren, horns, engines, doors, chatter, phones, footsteps. last night, as i walked two blocks, i became aware of the noise around me and sort of tuned in - and i realized, every person i passed who was speaking - either on the phone, to their companion, or to themselves - was speaking in english.

i was a little incredulous at first and thought maybe i'd just hit a pocket of tourists but as i rounded the corner and continued on my path english continued to be the only language i heard.

as i entered the metro station i started laughing... and then i collected some strange stares from the silent non-speakers and from those little english speaking chatterboxes as well. the funny thing - all those speakers, most of them were obviously non-natives speaking to other non-natives, there was quite a number had different accents from their counterpart.

it's really becoming apparent that english truly is a universal language. and all this time i thought it was love. maybe that's my problem!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

age discrepancies...

This is such a weird place. I've been asked out by such a tremendous age range (I know as low as 19 and am estimating approaching 60) and I'm consistently mistaken for a good deal younger than my own age by Europeans (not Americans though, never Americans).

Today however I was labeled old. Some guy in one of my classes made reference to something he tells "old people", you know, those "people over 30, or like, 35". I am old. And he is a moron. But those are totally separate issues. Seriously.

BTW - I got a 93 on one mid-term and full points for the other. Classes are going well!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

random encounters with musical men

Earlier this week my friend's band was playing at Red Room. I posted a CS event up and a few people joined me for dinner beforehand and another joined us there. Coral came along too, for a while. After a bit she went home to do some homework. I walked her to the corner, and then the next corner, to where we could see the tram stop. Then waited while she crossed over.

As I stood there 2 guys came around the corner towards me, obviously upset, and one speaking in English... They were carrying bags and looking for something so I asked if they needed help. Yes, they did. They'd just arrived from Germany and had taken a taxi which had dropped them at their hostel - which was tucked away inside a courtyard... they'd found it at then end of a flight of un-lit stairs after a great deal of searching. Upon knocking a resident down the hallway let them know it was closed as it had burned up inside a few days before. On Easter to be exact.

So these guys didn't know anyone and they didn't have a place to stay - I brought them back to the club with me and the CSers sorted them with directions, things to see, and one walked them to a hotel where they booked a room. They then came back and bought us all drinks... and danced... and we moved on to Nebe for more dancing, and then to Vagon with even more...

High energy, lots of fun, eloquent English combined with quick humor, and apparently one of them is some sort of German rock (pop?) singer.

While I got home a lot later than intended I had a great time... and that sort of encounter, strangers who embrace you and then have facets to their personalities most non-natives speakers can't convey... are far more common here, for me, than I could have imagined over there.... (where my there is, not necessarily where you are!)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jello pudding & Crystal Light... and other random thoughts

For some reason these are what I'm really missing right now. Chocolate Jello Pudding and Crystal Light Lemonade. Not healthy but they make me happy.

It's raining and the wind is terrible. Not too much new here but I may experience Ultimate Frisbee for the first time tomorrow - depending upon the weather.

And needing - Allegra. If you can send some that'd be AWESOME! Coral's allergies are kickin in again and the kid has been overwhelmed... the pharmacies here are easy if you know exactly what you want, with perfect pronunciation, or if you're lucky enough to show up while an English speaking employee is on duty. I'm not that lucky as of late.

Next week is another retreat. And I have 2 projects and a third paper to work on.

AND I still haven't been paid AGAIN by the same boss. Unfortunately English jobs aren't being widely advertised right now and my job hunt is less than fruitful. Housing is also a bit difficult so we may just be staying here for a while longer. Not that that's a terrible thing, our flat is great, just quite remote from our lives.

Peace. Sleep well.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monkey videos

Little monkeys and the tree

Here's the second...



Two little monkeys near the water

And that is all folks! Coral fell asleep and it's not even 8:30 yet. Long day for a little kid! Wait, sorry that last remark was straight out of a time warp. Current day commentary... she's exhausted!

Prague Zoo

Today Coral and I went to the zoo.... how about you???

It was awesome!!! I am pretty tired right now so there won't be much detail, but I'd been told this zoo ranked as one of the top zoos in the world and after our incomplete tour today I would totally agree!!!

Also - there aren't many zoos where you can walk your dog and have a lemur run over your foot while holding your beer. There's more to it, but that is the part that made me laugh. They sell doggy tickets for the zoo...

And the lemurs run free in their exhibit so you'd better watch out or you may trip on one and then you'll make the others REALLY MAD!!!

Here's a link to my pictures... I took some video and will try to get it up soon. I didn't get any pictures of the gorillas though and am really bummed. The family was playing at the top of some steps and it was adorable!! The mother would throw straw all over the father and he would hug her and pin her and she would somersault away and the baby would clamber around the climb on them both. I love baby gorillas!

Photos from the Zoo - click here!

Friday, April 10, 2009

professorial lunch

I feel a little odd and unsure how to handle it... a few of the law professors have asked me out to lunch. I am a student and sort of an employee - not one of their potential students, but definitely an employee in their department.

weird weather

Just over 2 weeks ago it was snowing. This week you can go out at 11pm in shorts and a t-shirt, no sweatshirt necessary.

Thought you'd like to know.

Also - the trees bloomed over night and the scent of jasmine fills the midnight air.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Am I a WHAT???

The kid was just remarking that most of my friends here are younger while most of my friends in the US are older than me.... I mentioned two male friends by name - one born in the same year but a few months after me, and one a few years younger....

And she said,

"ARE YOU A COUGAR MOM?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Obama-mania... part 8?



Today was pretty darn spectacular. We were lucky enough to get to see the President of the United States of America speak, addressing a large and welcoming crowd gathered in the square at the Prague Castle.

Coral woke about 5:30 and we left the house shortly after 7. I had checked and re-checked the schedules to make sure the trams and metros were still running correctly and we got the right bus which took us to the functioning metro which led us to the tram stop where we waited for 30 minutes. Finally a tram arrived and the masses filled it before we could get on. Then another tram arrived and the same thing happened - but people from the first tram got on the second tram as they were unsure if the first tram was the right one for the event. We then got on the first tram. Which didn't move. After standing inside a stationery tram for about 20 minutes Coral and I said goodbye to her friends we'd run in to and left on foot. We had to walk to the square by my school from the metro, and then up to the castle - no the first or second entrance but the last possible option to get to the castle. From there we were divided into groups according to who had tickets, stood in line, and were herded through security. Somehow, and this is where we got lucky, after security Coral and I turned right rather than left and ended up unknowingly walking down in to an open area that later filled with a few ticket holding people..... the main crowd was hundred of meters behind us while we were maybe 50 meters from the podium (as the crow flies, we were uphill a bit, walking may have been 60 meters or so).

After a wait he made his appearance and the crowd was warm and welcoming. He spoke eloquently on a variety of issues and acknowledged how the world had grown since his birth - a black President of the United States of America speaking to the citizens of Prague - there really could not be any clearer indicator of the struggle to overcome racism in America and the triumph of freedom and democracy in the areas behind the Iron Curtain (he is much much more eloquent than I).

He spoke of overcoming fear. How the struggle is not the rhetoric of freedom - but overcoming fear, living free of fear which I believe speaks to most Americans right now... our country has been dominated and dictated to by our fears.... He spoke of international agendas and progress with Russia working towards creating a nuclear arms disarmament. And the need to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely - not reduce or restrict - eliminate as one missile will have devastating worldwide effects. He spoke of the need to move away from fossil fuels - and the need to create a clean safe energy bank for all the nations in need willing to abide by a nuclear weapons ban. He spoke of real enforcement of international rules and true consequence - especially relevant today in light of North Korea's testing this morning. He talked of NATO the G20 and global warming.

There were cheers and shouts throughout - some delayed due to the time it took for the locals to read the translations - but it was awesome and uplifting and, for me, a piece of history made real. I will have this experience, a moment in time, where I was proud of my nation, and my leader, and surrounded by foreigners who embraced us - this time without distinguishing between the people and the President, but even more warmly because he is the people's President.

It was pretty cool.

On a lighter note - there was a lot of new media after the fact doing interviews and such. We had to walk back down from the castle in the crowds of tens of thousands, navigating our way. Coral pointed out a news team conducting an interview in English, and as I turned to look I stepped in a whole, screamed (aaaaah) , and yelled "Shit!" - so if you're watching the news... and you hear it... that's me!

And on a final note of a cataloging of our day... the trams and metro were basically inaccessible so we had to walk back down and across the Charles Bridge to get to the center. Some super genius on the bridge renovation crew decided to drive on to the bridge and the foot-traffic came to a complete halt!!! There were 30,000+ people behind me and the crush was unreal. It was pretty ugly. There was also a protest coming in a single file line at us, with their police escort. It was far from pleasant - but a minor inconvenience for the thrill of the day. We got off the bridge, ate lunch and went shopping... EXCELLENT DAY.

ALSO - today we got checked on the local bus - 7:30 am on a Sunday, out on the 'burbs of Prague!!!

Obama rocks my socks...

Pics below... narrative later!



No guns, swords, bags, liquids, flammable items, flags, butcher knives, or bombs...








Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Recent Conversation

I was talking with a group of classmates recently about the visa renewal process (not encouraging) and one guy was telling me about a woman who you can hire - one of those who lends you money to show the foreign police... and other things too...

Anyway he gave me details and was describing her business dealings to the group and ended up with a very serious admonition , "...you gotta watch out though, she's Serbian, you can't trust her. They'll cheat you of anything."

There was a long pause in the conversation, when finally another girl turned to him and said, "Uh... aren't you Serbian?"

He kind of laughed and looked at the floor and said, "Yeah, but I'm trying to rise above it."

Does anyone have a slim paperback of Dorothy Parker?

I'd love to get a copy of you have one you no longer read - or if you can send me a title that is thin and little I can order one here... she's not in the local shops and so I'll have to order one... no perusing and prices don't come through till the book gets here and I don't want to spend a fortune.

Thanks.

OBAMA!!!

Yes, you are looking at a current posting, the blog has not flipped back to pre-election days....

GUESS WHAT WE'RE DOING THIS WEEKEND!!!

OH YES, THAT ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPPORTUNITY THAT YOU ALL (ok, not all, but a fair number) GOT TO EXPERIENCE BACK IN JANUARY.... WE'RE GETTING OUR VERSION ON SUNDAY!!!

President Obama will be leaving the G20 summit and heading over to Prague for the weekend. On Sunday he will be giving a public speech, his first foreign policy speech abroad, within the Prague Castle Square. Admission is free. The speech starts at 10 - gates open at 7... I expect we will be there well before then.

Unlike the millions that descended upon the White House there is an expected crowd of 40,000 (small space, intentionally chosen to keep the numbers low and manageable).

Bags, signs, deodorant, dogs, and metal objects are not allowed - please carry your passport at all times. (??? seriously... deodorant - please they should be handing it out not prohibiting it!!)

People are coming in from surrounding countries and there is still only an expected crowd of 40,000. The low numbers is not due to a low popularity rating, on the contrary that is an astonishingly high expected turnout... considering this nation is the size of Virginia and the square is very, very small and enclosed. Maybe I missed a zero and it's 400,000 but I can't find the article now. They're trying to avoid the 200,000 crush he faced in Berlin while he was campaigning for the Presidency.

All protests have been canceled for this weekend as the police force is already fully extended. Roads will be closed, the transit affected.

It will be interesting!!!