Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Last Chance for September

Hard to believe that this is the last day of September (gasp!). Although, in truth, I really wouldn't say this month has flown by. It seems like ages since the first couple of weeks of school when I was a little bit afraid that my head might pop off do to the stress of trying to come up with lessons for a bazillion and one classes. But now, at long last, we are up to our full teaching staff, and everything should fall into some sort of normalcy. So I suppose it's time to lay out my schedule.

Monday: 9-10:30 L3s (these are our highest level daily students!)
10:45-12:15 L2s (they're a little lower than last year, but still great!)
5-6:30 Upper Intermediates (Tammy's class from last year)

Tuesday: 9-10:30 L3s
Now the really crazy bit is that every couple of weeks, due to Tammy's odd schedule Ill have to teach L2s from 10:45-12:15, but today I just had the one class which is why I'm kickin' it at home all afternoon.
4:30 Hanging out with Roshani and maybe Laura or Tammy at Bartholomeus. It was Rosh's idea to make this a habit, and it works for me :)

Wednesday: 9-10:30 L3s
5-6:30 Upper Intermediates

Thursday: 9-10:30 L3s
10:45-12:15 L2s on rotation with Tammy
1:15-2:45 Employment Services every other week
5-6:30 Intermediate 1 (Naomi's class from last year)
6:30-8 FCE
(can you tell that Thursday's have the potential to be rather long?)

Friday: 10:45-12:15 L2s

So there you have my work schedule in a nutshell. Those of you with skype who'd like to hook up and chat, let me know. I have relatively decent internet at home now. It's not 100% reliable, but if worse comes to worse, and we have a time planned and it doesn't seem to be working there is always the possibility of me being at school or packing my computer to Bartholomeus, which is a whole lot closer and has free internet with purchase. So I'd love to chat with people when I've got the time. Keep in mind it's a 9 hour time difference from PST so while it's 3:33 in the afternoon here my computer says it's 6:33 at home. It can make things a little sticky.
Well, not much else on the news list for now. Hope to find times to chat with people now that my schedule is official :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Twas Brilig, and the Slithy Toves did Gyre and Gimble in the Waves

Things have been pretty busy over the last week or so. It really is a little bit amazing how differently this year is already turning out to be. It's not just about having different students. It's as about finding a totally different social group. I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that I live closer to the action, but it seems like I'm finally having a chance to get out and be a part of life here. Granted, a lot of it has been with my fellow native English speakers, but it's just been nice.
Last weekend we were in Prague for our first ESI retreat. It was good to get to see everyone and experience the new group dynamic on this side of the ocean. It was rather eerie seeing all the people from training in this new setting. We had our meetings at Kelly's house, which worked out really nicely since I was sleeping there as well :) But it was also nice just to be in the home setting. She has really managed to make her life here, and being in her hat feels like being in a house. Kind of makes me think of when I would visit the Read's place in Hong Kong. You'd ride up the elevator in a typical looking apartment high rise, and open the door into a two story home. It felt like you were situated on a hill in the country somewhere. So random.
Anyhow, we spent a good deal of time tied up in meetings, but we got a little chance to get out and see the sights. Brit and Gina met us in town when we arrived on Friday and we ended up climbing up the tower on the Charles Bridge and getting some amazing views!

The next day, after our meetings were over, we did a little shopping and sight seeing. Laura and I took the time to pose with our pal Honza Hus in the Old Town Square. Good times. :)
We came back on Sunday after a long CA meeting, and soon the week was in full swing. With the two first weeks out of the way, life has definitely taken on a speedy rhythm. It's amazing how, with the snapping of fingers, a week dissolves into a weekend. And this week certainly had it's fair share of busyness. Wednesday night we went out after work to celebrate Caleb's birthday. Caleb is another American in town. He's married to a beautiful Czech woman, who was a fantastic host, and has lived here for 7 years. They graciously opened their home to us, and also invited a couple other guys who speak English really well, over for this great party. Being the typical little kid that I am, I just couldn't leave until the party was all the way over. That being said, I curled up in bed about 1:30 with my busiest work day yet set to start in only 5 hours. Hmmmm...maybe not my smartest move ever.
I told myself that, little sleep or no, it was my fault, and therefore I had to be on best and brightest behavior all day. I've often found that I do better on less sleep. Basically because it means that I'm being really active, and I'm always happier when I have a full schedule. Not that I don't need time to rest every now and again as well, but for the most part, I like to keep busy. So I managed to get through teaching 5 classes (ten hours of teaching!) on about 5 hours of sleep.
Ten hour days are not going to become a weekly thing, but, due to Tammy's really odd schedule, they will happen on occasion. I've found, however, that they're really pretty doable. I had an hour off for lunch, and about two hours in the afternoon to do some planning, and it worked out okay. I wouldn't do well if I had to work like that every day, but it really wasn't so bad, even on 5 hours of sleep.
And then came Friday! Talk about a day of crazy great fun! First of all, I only had to teach one class, and was therefore free by 10:30. Second, it was our first English Pub Night. We had to move to a new location, but, except for the fact that there wasn't really enough ventilation and it got REALLY smoky, the set up was pretty ideal. We were in this pub called Walza, and it's set up really open so you can tell who is there. We had a really good turnout, which is pretty typical of the first party, and a decent sized group of students from last year were there as well as quite a few of our new daily students, and a decent number of evening students as well.
I felt a little stretched thin trying to get around to hanging out with all the different groups, but it was well worth it.

Anicka and Tereza are both daily students this year. Anicka is in my L2 class and Tereze in L3.

Here are a nice group of L2's from last year. They were really a great class and it's sad not to have them around this year. A few of them are in evening classes now, so it's nice to see them around when they're there.
Here I am with a big crew of my daily students from this year. In this picture you can see me, Vasek, Honza, Anicka, Jirka, Tereza and Vojta. It's so strange to type their names on my computer because I can't do any of the diacritical marks. So just know that if I could write them correctly, and you had any idea how to pronounce Czech letters, you would realize that Vasek should sound like Vashek and Anicka like Anichka. One of the great things about the Czech language is that it's completely phonetic. Letters always do the same things. The only thing is that they have some letters we just don't have, so it makes it difficult to really convey it.

Here you can see my favorite picture of the night. I think Honza and Anicka are pretty much adorable! And then there's Vasek (yes, I have two of them this year) who thought he should be in the beginner's class, but is seriously really good at English. I'm super happy he has been moved up to our class because he really adds a lot to it. My two Vasek's are actually both amazing students. The other one, who is in L3, is truly dedicated to learning English, and even when the rest of the students speak to him in Czech he'll still speak to them in English! Way to go to the Vaseks!
Besides having a great selection of Czechs we also had a decent showing of Americans, and our other native English speaker Ian. So in all we had 7 native speakers! Anyone recognize the girl in the next photo with Roshani?

Yep, that's right! Rebecca came to see me! She's currently working in Vienna with a group of students from her college in the US. She went on this study abroad program when she was a student and now gets to be one of the chaperons. She had a free weekend and was able to come up here and see me so I was way excited to have her. After yet another late night out (we got home at about 2:30) we spent the day seeing Cheb. God blessed us with A-MAZE-ING weather! I mean it was incredible. After weeks of cloudy bleak fall weather, we had sunny blue skies all day. It was perfect for showing off my little town. I also introduced her to the wonder that is Kofola...ahhh...

It was sad to see her climb on the train today, but we're thinking of ways to meet up again. I really want to get to Vienna this year anyway, and we're even contemplating meeting up some weekend to go to Berlin, so there's much to be done in the next few months while she's on my current side of the world. Life is pretty fascinating.

Monday, September 22, 2008

On a positive note!

I'm able to be online in my flat! So excited about that. Okay, so I'm not quite bouncing off the walls the way Laura was :) but I am pretty seriously thrilled. Not a whole lot more to say at the moment. Oh, except for the fact that the busker has returned to his post by hypernova. In fact, today he was taking up residence right outside the door to Winfield.
Now I'm not fully opposed to people performing on the street and making some money off it. At least not when they actually sound decent. But this guy...wow! Talk about awful. We're talking he can't sing, he can't play guitar, and he can't decided what language to use or what season he's singing in. It's pretty terrible. And yet he comes out, day after day, rain or shine, and sings his little heart out. The odd bit is, he doesn't look like he's bad off. I'm afraid someone lied to him and said he was good, and now he's just doing what he can to destroy all our ears. Ah well.
Well, Laura has gone to bed, so I should give up typing for the evening. I'm just super excited to have it working here. I'll be able to update more often with pictures this way to be certain. Yippee!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beginning of the Projects

Or maybe I should say the middle. Whatever. It's been an interesting week with all the field trips. Sadly the weather has decided to be less than splendid. It's been in the mid to low 40s this week. I'm already wearing my winter coat, which isn't exactly encouraging as it's still officially summer. GRRRR!!! Still, it's been really nice to have a change of pace.
On Monday the students who are from Cheb gave presentations about the city. They talked about the location and region, basic history facts, and facts about tourism and shopping. Then there were longer reports about sports and recreation, culture, and specific reports on significant buildings like the castle and churches in town. It was a lot of fun. I think the students really enjoyed it too, although we were all pretty much freezing by the end of it.
After walking around in the cold, we made our way to a small pub where we had drinks and talked in English for a really long time. I was very impressed with them for speaking in English so much. I think this year's group has a lot of promise. They seemed to be quite motivated and really interested in improving their English, so I'm excited.

Yesterday we did some critiques of the presentations and they created a quiz. Pretty sure I passed it! Especially the grammar correction bit. :) Then today we headed off to the second town, but I haven't had a chance to upload pictures from that trip, so they'll have to wait for the next post. We have one more town to cover this week. I'm curious to see what the last group will do as they've now had a chance to see how other people have done it.
On Friday I'm headed to Prague for our first business weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing the other teachers. It'll be nice to be back in that beautiful city again as well. I really do enjoy Prague, but I'm finding more and more about Cheb to enjoy as well. Between Laura and her fresh eyes, and Roshani, another new teacher in town who is equally inspired by the smallness of it all, and just feeling so comfortable with the places that surround me, I'm seeing that Cheb does have a lot to offer. Maybe not the thrills and excitement that a larger city would provide, but it's a chance to really get to know Czech culture and the people who live in this fascinating country.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Long overdue

I do apologize for sort of falling off the map for the past week. It's been pretty crazy around here with all my classes and trying to figure out life once again. Besides, the weather has actually been decent as of late, and rather than sitting inside and being online endlessly I've been taking to the streets and enjoying strolling along the river or sitting in the square.

Basically, I know that the nice weather isn't going to last for very long, so I have to drink in as much sun as I possibly can. And so I've been remiss at the updating thing. We kind of have internet at home now, it just doesn't actually work. Soooo frustrating. I figured out how to hook it up, so the ethernet says that it's connected, but when I go to get online it won't do anything at all. REALLY frustrating. All this just to say that I'm at Bartholomeus again because at least here I know the internet will work :)
I've just got a few pictures to add today. Not really a whole lot to say because mostly all I've been doing is work, and there really isn't a whole lot to say about that. I've made it through the first two weeks, which is a great relief. Today Tammy was finally released from "house arrest." Here in Czech when you're sick you're not supposed to even leave your house. So after her surgery she had at least a week during which she wasn't supposed to do anything at all. She's really happy to be able to go out now. She still has no idea what her problem has been, but at least she can come back to work.
I'm actually really excited about this coming week. Tomas set up this big project for the students in our L2 and L3 daily classes. They have to do research on their home towns, and then we're going to go on tours. It should be a lot of fun. On Monday we'll be touring Cheb and they have to tell us things about the city. Then on Tuesday we'll talk about what they learned. Wednesday we'll go to Marianske Lazne, Thursday we'll review it some more and they have to work on creating a brochure about their city. Then on Friday we'll be going to Franiskovy Lazne. So basically I don't have to do any planning for my daily classes all this coming week. After having to come up with every singl lesson from scratch for the past couple of weeks it'll be really nice to have this break. And then the next week Tammy will take over all the extra classes I've been teaching, and soon we'll have books, and everything will be sooooo much easier. :) I'm really looking forward to it.
So that's pretty much the news from around here. I need to get a proper newsletter out sometime next week. I kind of want to wait until I have pictures from all the class trips as I think that will make it more interesting. So for now, just some sights from around this little town of mine.

There is a street down near the river, just below the castle, that seems to have been willingly given over to graffiti. I'm not sure if it's actually legal for them to tag here, but we have seen them working on it in broad daylight, so they don't seem in any way concerned about being caught. Laura gave her class a survey about themselves and one of her students even said that she likes working on her graffiti art. Who knows. But we kind of like this one that has Cheb. See, we're cool in Cheb after all :)

I feel a little bit like a copied this picture, because Laura took one first, but I had sort of been thinking about it, and so it's not just hers. Anyhow, this is the street I live on this year. I'm really quite excited about my new location. We'd been warned a lot about it being really noisy around here at night, but I haven't had any problems thus far. During the festival there were people out fairly late, but other than that it's really not a big deal.

Here is our "new" building. It's actually a really old building, but the flats have been (and are being) renovated so that they're really nice inside. Being an old building it feels a little bit like a cave inside, and there is a lot of moisture so clothes take positively FOR-EVER to dry, but it's a great place. We're on the second floor, so you can see our two living room/bedroom windows.

This summer our big cathedral, St. Mikolas, went through some renovations as well. Before the war the towers were tall and beautiful, but it suffered some damage and the communists rebuilt the towers differently so this summer they restored them to their original splendor. I'm very impressed with what they've done. And here's an interesting piece of trivia, I know the nephew of the guy who ran the cranes that put them in place. That has to count for something, right?

This final image is of my drink a couple nights ago. It looks about the way my one today does as well. Just thought you might enjoy seeing what I'm drinking while I write this.
I really will try to be better at updating in the future. I have a feeling that the sunny weather is pretty much a thing of the past. I just hope it's decent for our field trips this next week!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Second first week...almost done

Well, as suspected this second first week has been long indeed. I still have four classes left (8 teaching hours for those with shorter classes) and then I'll be free, or at least sort of, for the weekend! I still have two classes I haven't met with, as I only see them once a week, and I'll be going to them in a little over an hour. Of the maybe 50 students I had last year, this year I have only 5 or 6 of them back again. I'm still pretty torn up about it, but there's really nothing to be done. Just have to try to find ways to make the best of all the new students, and hopefully I'll have chances to see the others every now and again. At least we still have our English Pub Night all together to look forward to at the end of every month.
I suppose it really is time for me to get a newsletter written. Maybe sometime this weekend. It looks like it'll be a rather lonely Friday as Tammy is still in Prague after her surgery (speaking of which, she came through everything fine, but they didn't discover ANYTHING wrong with her!) and Laura has already been invited out by one of her colleagues. So "Sarah amuses herself alone," will be the name of this Friday night.
The rain returned last night with a vengeance. After a lovely sunny day I was surprised to hear something pounding outside. Sure enough, the clouds were pelting massive drops of water at our windows, the wind whipping signs around on the street below, and lightning electrifying the sky. Feels like being back on the West Coast for sure :)
Speaking of the West Coast, I gave my students a brief tutorial on the ever changing "home" of Sarah. I think they were pretty fascinated, seeing as how most of them have only lived in one place their entire lives, or possibly two. When a new student was added to the class I listened to them rapidly informing me of my diverse dwelling places in Czech. Oregonu is just a funny word. The joys of Czech endings.
Anyhow, I just wanted to say the second first week really is going to be over soon!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A bit of a blow

I'm pretty much ready to just be out of the office today, but wanted to at least put up a little something about how the first week is going. Well, yesterday was pretty much terrible. Not that the classes went poorly, but I discovered that I don't have ANY of my old classes. I have a couple of students who have switched around and will be in my classes, but basically nothing. I'll be teaching the FCE class again, but it's not the same students either. Seeing as how the main reason I wanted to come back was to get to know my students better, it hit me really hard when I discovered that was an option in the way I had anticipated. I mean, I saw some of them yesterday, and they all said we would have to go out to a pub sometime and talk again, but it's not the same as getting to be with them in class a couple times a week. It just made me really sad and I basically cried my head off all last night until about 12:30 when I finally quit writing in my journal and forced myself to go to bed.
I think the daily classes will be good, although I'm teaching two of them this year, and one of them is really low. I'm not used to working with such low students and it's a super huge challenge for me. I'm not good at speaking so slowly or simply. My main asset is the fact that I can handle the English language easily, so to be working with people who have trouble forming a simple sentence in English is a little out of my league.
I know God knows what He's doing somehow, but it doesn't make any sense to me at the moment.
But, enough whining, I'm going home for the day!