Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Out, out damn.... mosquito!

I am starting to wonder if there is some basis for the vampire legends... I can envision someone rationalizing vampires after the past week's experiences. I am being haunted by a demon mosquito.

I have killed this thing at least once a night, every night, for over a week. And each night one mosquito comes back and bites me. Every single night. It stays in my bedroom, hidden during the day, waiting to return at dusk. It stalks me and sucks my blood and flies off to return at its whim... I swear it regenerates each time I kill it!!!

This thing is driving me crazy. Literally. I wake up in the middle of the night, swollen, disfigured, discolored, and in a bit of pain with a lot of frustration. Last night I got another bite and broke out in hives - my entire arm was red and blotchy.... after waking from the bite itself I watched the splotches develop and the redness spread from my mid-forearm in either direction - to my wrist and elbow. The night before it was my face.

I am so frustrated that when I hear it I start moving to the other room to sleep on the couch instead of my bed. It doesn't bite me out there.

Each night, just one dead mosquito. The windows are closed. I can't figure out how it gets in the flat. But somehow there is always one blood sucking mosquito waiting for me in my bedroom. I haven't slept well in quite some time.

If you are an expert mosquito killer please, please let me know. If you can kill it and it stays dead and gone I will compensate you with homemade peanut butter cookies. And everlasting gratitude.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flu & Good King Wenceslas

We haven't gone to the doctor cause it's not too serious, but she's sick. We had to skip out on the trip to Dresden we'd had planned for the long weekend... long weekend, you may ask, whatever for?

Czech Statehood. Now that looks like a rather obvious statement, but I'm still unsure which statehood that's referring too. It's not the creation of the modern day Czech Republic, and it's not the liberation of Czechoslovakia, so I made a half-hearted attempt to look it up.

Good King Wenceslas was the answer. You know..... good King Wenceslas from the Christmas carols... that guy. He wasn't actually a full fledged king - actually he was Prince Wenceslas... or Prince Vaclav as it would be over here - but he was a much loved leader and had a kingly type role and did some good stuff over here - until his brother killed him in a terrible power play. So, yesterday was a holiday surrounding good King Wenceslas and Czech Statehood.

I'm not sure but I think it was the anniversary of his murder. We spent it at home. She's still sick.

(Hey, I just did an instant of research cause I had my own questions, and came up with THIS RIGHT HERE. It's a nice little bit on King Wenceslas (Saint Wenceslas, Prince VACLAV)- the man, the myth, the Church's legend... propaganda from the Premyslids on through Vaclav Havel who led the liberation in Wenceslas Square.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

the world works...

Mysterious ways and all that.

No - I firmly believe that what you put in you'll get out. Not on your time line, and not if you try to force it, but things will turn if you keep at it.

Case in point (minor stuff but I'm grateful): I didn't get the job I wanted and started to freak out internally about how I was going to afford my life. I sent out my CV to a ton of places but it's hard with odd availability and a student visa. But things are coming together:

that anti-american boyfriend... the girlfriend just called last night with 2 new students - that makes 3 new students from her in the past week

my uni - the dean of my department (studies not work) tracked me down and asked me to teach the CFO starting immediately. additionally, the CFO has a friend who is a doctor who also wants to start immediately. i met with them today and we start on tuesday.

my uni - my Dean (employer) talked to me and asked me to stay on in a more limited capacity, adding the President endorsed adding my name to the website and handbook in my present capacity... he also asked me to teach a new course in the next academic year, once it's approved by our accrediting agency and made a core requirement. he already has the material for me and the curriculum in mind.

my private students - they were able and anxious to adapt to my schedule, enabling me to take a short vacation this weekend. the daughter broke her finger and didn't want to work so i spent more time with the mother... they adapt and pay when i leave and it's nice.

my private pre-school student - they decided to take vacation this week, and so rescheduled a full day of work to my free weekday so I won't miss any money

my private pre-school company - there are new classes waiting for me to take.

Each and everyone of those places (except the private pre-school) pays better than the school I started with last fall... the school that closed without paying the teachers.

About the private students...well... They're a Russian family and when we first talked the wife made a comment about being tired of people assuming they're mafia. I thought nothing of it. Today, after passing through the gate and ringing the bell to their beautiful brick home I looked up and realized I was on camera. Then I looked around and realized there were about 4 cameras trained on the front yard. The father works from home. He's a business man. That's all I know. I am not assuming anything... other than that they're serious about security.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

boredom leads to bank robbery?

Last week I was at work. I am a glorified babysitter once a week. I have to figure out my wages, actually, because glorified may be a definite overstatement. I was hired to lead a pre-school course but I have only one student, and she is only 2 1/2..

After lunch the child fell asleep for her nap. In a school with one teacher and one student. I did not have any reading material or other busy work to occupy my time. I ate my lunch, tidied up, was already prepared for my next lesson.... and so had nothing to do.

So I entertained myself.

I can now move across a room without triggering the motion detector. If you need that specific skill set - you know who to turn to.

Friday, September 18, 2009

coral is home

finally, again!!!!

my anti-american employer

I'm not incredibly nationalistic. Some people may take issue with that - some believe that makes you less of a person to be American by birth but not one of those flag-waving, might is right, AMERICAN Americans... especially overseas.

I try not to lump people in to groups and label them good or bad as a whole according to their country of origin (not perfect in that respect, but I try), much unlike this guy I met a few weeks back.

I hadn't planned on a late night out as I was still recovering from my illness (and am STILL recovering to date). But I ran in a DJ friend and his group after he finished his set while I was waiting for my tram - they talked me in to grabbing a drink since I had 20 minutes to wait... it turned in my hanging out with them for the next few hours.

During that time span a few things developed - I was the sole remaining female, the only American, and with a group of British and Czech guys out having a good time. UNTIL some guy tugged in the front of my top and I knocked his hand away with a lighthearted, "What the hell?"

Then he ripped in to me about how he hates Americans, American women especially as we're all uptight bitches and pushy and loud and self-righteous and demanding and selfish and blah blah blah. He'd already mentioned something disparaging before but I had chalked it up to him just teasing. I responded this time - let him know he was essentially a stranger and pulling my clothes off and that any woman would react in the same way, not matter where they were from. He argued that European women wouldn't have a problem with that and Czech women wouldn't mind at all. I laughed - it was a ridiculous stance and I said so. I thought he was kidding a bit, but I was wrong. It was a stupid conversation and it continued for a bit - I was absolutely incredulous, couldn't believe he believed his own words but he kept going and going and then got in to how even trying to talk to an American was basically a waste of breathe and he never does it voluntarily outside of the work environment and our little exchange, was the most time dealing with Americans than he's had in the past 5 years... with all over conversations combined. I asked - why start now? I forget what else was said, but one of the other guys, a giant of a man, standing behind me told he him he'd better stop talking because first he was wrong and second he was rude.

It ended with him just going further and further and my getting a little mad, and then, after the giant guy interjected a few more times, he said he was just trying to push my buttons and tried to laugh it off.

Earlier this week I sent my cv off for a teaching position with a school - within the next 15 minutes I had a response from the owner. She asked to meet with me at a cafe the following day. I arrived and she was seated with a man. Her boyfriend. The co-owner. That guy.

I couldn't place him immediately but when I did I started laughing. He was somewhat embarrassed as he recalled our conversation. He asked if I had mentioned to him that I was looking for a teaching position and I said no, I hadn't. He laughed that the meeting was pretty much to get a feel for people and make sure they're articulate. And then remarked, "that's not really a concern - you're definitely articulate."

I got the job. And no, I will not be working with the guy, just for him... and his girlfriend.

Monday, September 7, 2009

my Mom and technology

My Mom and I were talking today - she was on the phone and I was on skype... she needed some help with her new email account and I was trying to offer some advice - as in, just keep it simple and copy and paste the message... She explained she doesn't know how to do that as she never uses that feature - so I talked her through copy and paste on a Mac...

When we finished I explained that she didn't need to be at home to check her email - she can check it anywhere... and she said, "I know, I can check it on my Iphone."

Iphone. My Mom doesn't copy and paste but she can navigate an Iphone. And her hands free carphone/gps system. How did she skip a whole generation or 3 of technology?

I love you Mom.

the new old friends - yet not about friends at all

Recently I ran in to someone I'd met shortly after arriving here. Our interactions then, and my feelings about them, when set against our interactions now have helped me to see how I've had a positive shift in my focal point and comfort level since I left the US.

I think it's not uncommon for newly displaced persons to feel a need to connect - connect with anyone willing to engage with them on any of a variety of levels, pleasant interaction preferably, in their native language possibly, but with some shared dynamic that will help them to feel comfortable in affirming themselves and their presence in this new world.

I know I did, and I know many other people who acknowledge having been in the same place.

When this need isn't readily met there comes along a sense of artificiality - or maybe that's just part of moving to a new country... nothing quite feels real just yet - not vacation, but not home, and definitely not real life. Almost, but not quite, one may become a caricature of oneself. I can't say to what extent I adopted this 'other me' but I know I met quite a few versions of various people that don't truly exist.

That initial need for connection meant that I created immediate social circles, groups of people with language as our one uniter - I've written on this before and don't need to rehash it again. I appreciate these various groups of people, and many of them are still a part of my life today, but in ways that have evolved since we first met. We've all changed drastically in the past year... most likely in ways we would never have imagined back in our country of origin.

It took me a while to move beyond English as being the sole unifying factor and in to finding friends who are friends due to our various other commonalities... shared interests, humor, activities, ideas, etc.

Now when I contrast the 'me' today to the 'me', say 8 or 10 months ago, I find a few things...

ONE - I am carrying a lot of different stress for very different reasons than I was then, and am more aware of it... that's what comes to mind first in my initial instance of self-reflection... not quite as good as..

TWO - I am happier. I wasn't unhappy then (except for the time right after my return from Christmas when I was sick, isolated, without Coral and had a concussion), but I am happier now.

I came with ideas and ideals, and while they still exist I can't say I've done much to make them whole... but I've done enough to help me grow... and I have more work to do. In lots of ways. In various aspects.

The quality of my friendships and the quality of my friends are an indicator to me that things are good. That's what prompted this - I can see that the people who I immediately had surrounded myself may not have been the healthiest or most grounded or most 'real' options out there - but they were the options I had at the time, and have helped me by being supportive and caring and present to the best of their abilities - and I have returned that to them as well. And then, for a few, there came a point where I could no longer view them as having a positive, caring and honorable presence in my life... and now, they're not in it.

And that is the difference. It almost made me sad seeing my friend. There is this magical quality about my first few months here - and that sentiment is shared by everyone I experienced that time with. Life was a party, truly, and while everything has repercussions the idea of being here was still so novel and exciting and new that the idea (and actuality) of those repercussions hitting never popped in to existence. Today - some of those people have since relocated, been reassigned, reunited with families, distanced themselves even further from their loved ones, moved to the other side of the world (both North and South America), had children, lost parents, lost friends, lived up to expectations, failed to make an effort at true responsibility.

I don't know where I fit in on the evaluation, but I know this. I think that being here is worth the effort it takes... and yet right now it feels like that effort is breaking my body. Yet, when I see my kid and I know how happy she is, and when I get up and am myself happy and anxious to get to the interesting part of my day - those things let me know I'm headed down the right track.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday at noon

Things I am not yet used to… the first Wednesday of the month the city’s air raid and emergency alarm system is fully tested at noon. It’s loud and sudden and sometimes scary.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

the un-funny guy... un-thank you?

I know this guy who has a friend - whose attitude and lack of friendliness and humor I had recently remarked upon. Turns out I was sort of wrong - he is capable of smiling and being friendly... and then suddenly he's not, again.

Just a preface to my experience with this guy and in no way does it have any bearing on the following:

I am frequently met with skeptical looks when I mention Coral's age... people think I'm joking or something, and start teasing me back. We were at a quiz night tonight and having a good time, and I joined my friend, the un-funny guy, and their friend. We were talking about age and music, connecting the two, when he asked me how old Coral was... I offered it up, and he thought I was kidding. After confirmation from another friend he accepted what I said... then remarked about how hard it was to believe as I look much, much younger. I said, "Thank you" which is sort of my standard response in this situation (why, I don't know and maybe I should reconsider whether or not my assumption that this is a complimentary remark is just me buying in to the male domination/societal focus upon youth equating beauty and desirability).

So, back to tonight...
"... so young..." him -"Thank you" me

Which was met with - "I didn't mean it as a compliment, it' s just my observation, my perception. To me you look about maybe 28 at the most, that's all."

So, how do I respond to that? "Un-thank you, sort of?" I really don't know. I just said, "ok" and then kept talking.

drinking dilemma - how to avoid having dumbass kids who end up injuring themselves and others?

How do you teach your child to drink responsibly? I know, child, drink, and responsible are not words you usually hear together, but there is a need for young adults to understand how alcohol affects them. Why? Because they will not be drinking with you, at your home, and under your supervision, and when they will be out drinking they will not know when enough is enough. Knowing when to say when doesn’t work when you don’t have an idea as to when it’s “when”.

Case in point:

Thursday afternoon the newest round of American exchange students arrived. The were greeted, fed and delivered to their new homes. Thursday night they went out. One young man did not know when to say when, and ended up getting so inebriated he hurled himself through a plate glass wall, severing tendons and nerves, and liberating other important things that should usually stay inside your arms. He was rushed to the hospital and prepped for emergency surgery. His father booked an immediate flight to Prague in order to join his son – the son he had placed on a plane not even 24 hours before.

This news prompted discussion amongst the staff and I heard horror stories of drunken (American) students who came over and made some attempt to live/work/educate themselves but not nearly as efficiently or as often as they were inebriated. The ridiculous events, catastrophes and tragedies relayed were of a most sobering variety - the worst ending in a boy who fell off his balcony and is now permanently paralyzed. Not a single one of them involved a motorized vehicle. These were just drunken students walking around town or in their own home.

If you bring a child to an amusement park you tell them – as do the workers – keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times. When you teach a kid to drive you explain safety issues and the rules of the road before handing over the keys. When you drop your kids off at the movies or the mall or anywhere for the first time you run through safety issues, stranger danger… things you’ve prepared them for since they were little children. How, as responsible parents, can we prepare our children to drink – the Reagan era Just Say No is not realistic… about as realistic as Bush’s theory that abstinence only sex education means that kids won’t have sex… how do we prepare our kids for the real world?

I ask this in seriousness, not because I am worried about my child, as I think our shared life experiences have given her a rather large view on the negative impact and effect excessive alcohol use can have upon your being and your relationships with those who love you (not my usage, others). I hope that my honesty and openness for discussion – forcing discussion on topics that were not part of my upbringing – has given her awareness and security in knowing that there is no need to hesitate should any issue arise. I would like to believe that we have a certain level of openness in our communication, and that issues surrounding sex and drugs and drinking are out there on the table, yet know that with her being who she is I have little need for concern regarding those issues – at least for today.

How do we, as parents, find that safe space? How do we teach our child how to be responsible without being irresponsible?