Wednesday, November 30, 2011

another funny headline

Czech man lost for five days while mushrooming

Upon viewing my first thought was, if he was on mushrooms he probably didn't mind. Then, five days on mushrooms?!? He probably needed medical attention. But, actually, he was probably just lost in the woods while hunting for regular old mushrooms. They do that frequently here.  It's surprising more people don't get lost.

Christmas in Prague

This year we're staying put.  We did once before but that year we had family come over to spend the holiday with us.  Not this time.

Thanksgiving has already passed and as Christmas approaches I'm feeling a bit wistful and somewhat homesick.  Then this morning I saw this... and was reminded how lucky I am to be here.

Night in Prague from Metron on Vimeo.

While I may miss  loved ones, and the warmer temperatures, all in all, this isn't a bad place to be.  Just in case you watched and were wondering how much of this is part of our regular experience - the answer is a lot.  That iconic bridge is around the corner from our school and a number of shots are from within a one block radius.  The other areas are the squares we go to for Christmas shopping, to watch the traditional seasonal performances, or walk through to get to a club, movie theater and a few restaurants we like. In other words - this video may be a highlight of the pretty stuff, but it's also showing you areas that are part of our practical life.

Prague really is beautiful.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

herding cats...

I recently received an invitation for a birthday dinner... it's not meant to be an excessively large gathering, it's been sent to a rather insular group of friends and will be held in a restaurant.  Here are the responses from those who will not be attending:

They all start with  "Sorry but I'll be in..."

Germany (offered by 2 people in addition to the one who will be in Bavaria)
and some place "out of the country"

I think I may be the only person in town other than the birthday people.  Fortunately there are three people celebrating, so that will be at least four for dinner.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hello.... is it me you're looking for? (poland)

There has been an influx of 80s ballads in dance clubs recently... I don't know why and it's weirding me out.

Anyway, I have neglected this blog for a bit - you may or may not have missed me - but life has been rather busy. I have time right this instant because it's late, I'm tired and I'm in a hotel in London... don't have the energy right now to go explore any more than what I have already but I have a few evenings left to make up for that.

So... let me backtrack to last month, if you don't mind...

I was in Poland for ten days
- I  volunteered for an English immersion program (no teaching experience necessary) which was located in the Polish countryside at a remote spa resort (the other 3 days were in Warsaw).

It was an adventure before I even got there.
Shortly after departing Prague, say, less than an hour in to an eight hour trip, the train caught on fire. Yes, there were flames coming from the back wagon . Obviously we stopped and they put it out. It was a Friday and the train was full from the get-go but all the people in the back wagon had to push on up to the other wagons, all of the wagons were full of smoke and there was a bit of confusion with people who'd evacuated the train and went in to the fields nearby in order to get away from the smoke - and the flames. After rounding everyone up they detached the last wagon and we went on our merry way.

Until it happened again.
I kid you not. The train caught on fire again. And yes, again, it was the back wagon.  This time the firemen came and put it out, not just the engineer with a little fire extinguisher.  They repeated the process - push the people up, reclaim the evacuees, detach the wagon and on our way.

And yet... a short while later there was another burning smell.  At this point my wagon, what had originally been the third wagon from the back, was now the last wagon and the burning smell was coming from us.  There was a station shortly ahead of us so we pulled in there.  The firemen came and did an inspection, gave us the thumbs up, attached a new back wagon and we were off, again.

Fortunately that was the end of burning.  Many hours later I made it to Poland.  I stayed with a friend and his new and growing family and had a great night.

The next day I met up with people from the program I had volunteered for for the first time. We had a private walking tour of Warsaw and then a lunch.  They were all quite nice, which was good as I was about to spend a week with them in intimate conditions, and we had a great time.  That night my friend took me out and introduced me to some of his friends and we had another good night.

On Sunday, bright and early, I caught the bus to the location - it was 3 hours east of Warsaw.  We met the Polish contingent for the first time and it was... interesting.

The program was to match native English speakers with Polish speakers who wanted to improve their language skills not through class and lessons but through an immersion experience.  They started off quiet and shy - hard to talk with them, really had to draw them out - but by the end of the week they were AWESOME!

I'm not going to write a lot about it - it was a unique and wonderful experience and really quite rewarding.  I've never seen an individual, let alone a group, so obviously increase their confidence and shine in such a short period of time.   We had one on one sessions, group sessions and entertainment hours.  We went swimming, walking, drinking, hot tubbing, in the sauna, dancing and had a bonfire. We played cards, charades and other games. And we all had a great time.I loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat.  The people were lovely - the other native English speakers, the Polish participants and the administrators.  It was an incredibly rewarding experience.

When we got back to Warsaw, a week later, we all had dinner together in one of the Polish men's flat.  Then, my roommate, had booked a room at the Marriott with two double beds rather than one queen and invited me to stay with her for my last night.  I did. That should serve to show that we all felt close, comfortable and happy together even after a week of talking and togetherness.