Monday, August 27, 2007

Ahhh! How to begin???

And so begins a new era. The era of My Life in the Czech Republic! How out of control is that? How totally unbelievable and different from all other experiences? And yet it looks so like that illusive home place. Home but with a twist of architecture, and a slurring of languages. Honestly, I'm on total language center overdrive. It's seriously insane. As I fumble around for words I find myself realizing just how much Cantonese/Spanish/German I know! It's so hard to express. And at the same time I'm trying to come up with the correct Czech word for things. Does it come? Well, on occasion. Mostly my Czech is just mixed up in the general confusion of my thoughts. There are these words that I can say, but they're completely devoid of meaning as of yet. I'm thinking flashcards, lots of flashcards.
So, here I sit in Bartholomeus, overlooking the old town square of Cheb, sipping my caramel frappe and thankful for the gift of internet.
Life has been a whirlwind these past few days. Just as training felt like months in a matter of weeks, I feel as though I've been here for far longer than 4 days. FOUR DAYS!!! Is it really possible that it has been so short? And I keep thinking that already I should have the entire layout of the land in my grasp. At the same time, I am happy to say that I arrived at this spot safely on my own, and even managed to order. Although, I sort of cheated because my confusion denoted me as a foreigner and happily afforded me an English menu of all things! I was sort of scrambling my way through the German edition, but the English was MUCH easier (surprise surprise).
At the risk of this being the LONGEST post in history! I'll try to keep myself on track.
We arrived in Cheb on Thursday morning after a very long and sleepless flight. We got to see our little home right away. Naomi and I live in Skalka, a small housing development on the outskirts of Cheb. The communist influence is strongly evident in the architecture. I think I actually forgot to include a photo of the building from the outside but here are a couple shots of my flat:

This first one is of the sitting room half of my bedroom, followed by the sleeping portion. It took several days for me to totally settle in, and then I made several large photo murals. Great fun.

This last photo is of a light switch. Yes, I realize it's a rather random thing to add, but I think they're pretty fascinating.

It has been really great having Tammy here to take us by the hand and show us all that Cheb has to offer. She lives about 20 minutes or so away from us in a little flat by herself. She has taken us around to see some of the sights every day it seems. Here are some shots of Chebska Hrad (Cheb Castle)

I actually thought I'd put more of those in but I guess not. Ah well. It's a pretty amazing place. It was built back in the 12th century, or at least that's when it started.
On Saturday evening Che and Crystal came to visit us from Sokolov. That was VERY cool. It was amazing how excited we were to see them after only a couple of days. It was such a relief that they were settled close by and were doing well.

Did I mention that this was going to be the longest post ever? Um, yeah. Anyhow, I've been enjoying a number of Czech delicacies as well. Thankfully Pizzerie serves exactly what it sounds like. I've had a chance to go to several, and to experience the art of putting ketchup on it. It's a lot better than it sounds. Last night I also got to try their fried cheese. It was pretty good, but eating a 4"by4" brick of cheese was enough for at least three or four meals, so I took a lot home. Of course I have also been happy once again to sip on European Fanta! Great times to be had by ALL!

So things are going pretty well thus far. I could write a ton more, but I think this will have to do for now. I don't have a whole lot of time before I have to be up at the school. The school looks really nice as well. I'm a bit nervous about how the whole teaching business is going to go, but I'm excited to know that I will mostly be working with advanced students. I know that Marianne, who was here before me, was able to have them reading some condensed literature books, so I'm hoping to be able to have some good discussions. Should be fun.
I hope everyone is well, and I intend to update more frequently once I get settled in better. I can actually use the internet at the school, but I don't want to download photos on their computer, so we'll see what happens.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

In Cheb

Um, for some reason it didn't want to post, but hopefully it will this time. Just wanted to let people know that I have made it safely, and will be settling in this afternoon. Please keep me in your prayers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Almost gone!

Only a few short hours before I'll be heading out of the country! So insane. It really doesn't quite feel real yet. Our flight doesn't take off until 6:30 AM on Wednesday, but we're heading out of here at about 3 AM, so it pretty much feels like it'll be today. I haven't decided yet if I'll try to sleep tonight at all. Doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. I'll just be really groggy and have to battle for a spot in the shower (sigh) We'll see what happens.
I had a great couple days with Rebekah so that was nice. It was a great disconnect from the training world. For a moment I even forgot that I was in southern California, seeing all the things in her little apartment that were the same as when she lived up in Anderson. Plus it was just really great to catch up with her in person since we hadn't been together since Jessie's wedding last year.
Well, it's nearly lunch time. It's the one meal at this place that is actually worth eating, so I might as well enjoy it for the last time. Hopefully tonight we'll find a way to go someplace nice to enjoy our last real meal in the states.
My bags are all pretty much packed, and I think they're at the right weight as well, so I'm ready to be off. Please pray that they'll all arrive in Czech with me. When I flew down here I lost both my suitcases, and I REALLY don't want to repeat that overseas. Especially since I'll be living several hours from the airport! I'm not sure they have delivery services around there like they guarantee here.
Anyway, not much else to say except that the next time I write it'll be from the other side of the world! Good times.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Running out of words...

Titles really weren't coming to me. So I gave up on trying to find one. Things are really winding down around here. Practicum is over, we've all passed our tests, now we're just sitting around for the weekend so we can be commissioned and get outta here! Pretty crazy. Part of our Central Europe team left last night for Slovakia. The exodus hath begun!
I just wanted to throw in a few highlights from the last week or so. I've even got a few photos to go along to keep things all fun and exciting.
This past week has been pretty busy. We had a party for our practicum classes and even had a movie star there to help with the presentation. That was fascinating. They did a little promo with shots from his films before he got up to talk, after which he gave a disclaimer thanking God that he wasn't actually at all like the characters he had portrayed. Anyhow, his name is Marco Rodriguez for those interested in an IMDB search. All of our classes were presented with certificates and then the preformed for all the guests. It was good fun. Probably the most exciting part was that we got to enjoy food from all over the place. We had a mix of Central and South American dishes, along with a little something from Korea and Armenia. I think my favorite was the Peruvian rice that one of my students brought. So cool.
We also had our TEFL test this week. I am now certified in TEFL or some such. I'm not sure exactly what all it counts for, but it is enough for what I'm going to be doing this year, so that's cool. I still can't actually teach anywhere stateside, but that's the joy of bureaucracy after all.
So after a whirlwind week, I'm pretty much done and waiting. We're having potato pancakes made by our Czech teacher, Pavel, this afternoon so that should be fun. Then tomorrow Rebekah is coming to take me away for a day or two. I'm looking forward to seeing her since it's been over a year since we last were together at Jessie's wedding. Then, dark and early Wednesday AM, we'll be whisked away to the airport for some heavy duty flying. I'm looking forward to actually going with a group. It's been a long time since I flew with a group, so it should be good fun.
Well, as promised, here are some photos.

Here we have the Czech team on photo day. A fun lovin' group we are!
Deanna and I were really excited about our chance to go to Hollywood, but you really can't see the sign very well in this next picture unless you zoom in really close. Ah well!

We checked out some of the footprints at the Chinese Theatre.

Then we actually went to China town which was a lot of fun for me. I even taught them Hong Kong pose!

On Sunday we went to the beach in Santa Monica. I know it looks like all we do is play, but those are always the most interesting photos. You don't really want to see us sitting for hour upon hour in sessions! So here's a fun beach shot!

And now the photos you've been waiting for:
The glorious food, the movie star, and my little practicum class!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Only 9 days left stateside

Hard to believe how quickly training is evaporating. Before I know it I'll be on yet another international flight. I must admit I'm rather excited to be on a flight with other people I know. I don't do that very often.
I've been up to all sorts of things around here. Today was my last night teaching at Practicum. Miraculously I was informed that I reached the elusive 80/20 (80%student talking/20% teacher). I was pretty excited about that. I think I've actually been able to help them grasp a few things about the past tense and that is really exciting. I'm still a little nervous about how teaching full time (I have 90 minute long classes!) will go. But I'm sure that once I have a few months under my belt I'll be feeling better about all of that as well. I know I have the knowledge in my head, it's just a matter of sharing it with my students in a way that will inspire and enliven them. We'll see how it goes.
I thought I would finally add a few more photos here. I have some more as well, but haven't downloaded them yet, so you'll have to make due with things from a couple of weeks ago for the most part. I promise I really haven't changed all that much since these were taken :)

Here is a picture of me and my friend Crystal standing outside a very strange restaurant in Pasadena called "Roscoes Chicken and Waffles." They literally expect people to put fried chicken on a waffle and then pour syrup over it. Hmmmm. I just had a waffle.

Here are a couple of my friends (Deanna and Katie) at Huntington beach. We spent most of the day there and had a little barbecue in the evening. Good fun.

Anybody want a hotdog?

Here I am with my teammates Tammy and Naomi. They will actually be living with me in the CR. Should be good fun.
Well, I really hope these photos work seeing as how they've changed the format and now they just show up as code when I'm typing. We'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The training tales go on

I've got a little free time today so I thought I should catch up a wee bit. Aye me, training days can be so long. I was realizing today that in only a scant two weeks I'll be "leavin' on a jet plane." Talk about out of control. I'm feeling a little scattered, but I'm sure things will all work out in the end.
I know now that I need about $4,500 to fulfill my current debt to Teachoverseas. It still doesn't cover my return flight home, but I'll deal with that bit when I get to it.
It's been really good to start getting to know the people I'll be living with over the next year. They're really great people, and I can see a lot of potential for good things to come. At training, they work really hard to help us look at all the possibilities for things to go wrong, as well as trying to give us ideas for how to deal with conflicts that may come up.
I currently have several conversations going on, so keeping this all going smoothly is not so easy. We're having a serious grammar discussion, not my strong point. At least we're not trying to have it in Czech...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Another week of training down!

Well, here are a couple pictures of what I've been up to this past week. The first shows me teaching English here in Pasadena. The second is just a rather goofy photo that was taken of me as we were waiting around to go to our practicum site.
Things have been really busy here. Good but busy. I kind of need to go all of a sudden because the movie we were watching is over, but I wanted to just write quickly. I'll add more soon. Just a note, anyone who is interested in contributing to my mission here and in Czech Republic, the time is now. I still need about $5000 for my trip. So if you've been thinking about it let me know and I'll be sure to post more info on how to be involved. It's well worth it.