Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Similarities and Differences pt 3

  • In Cz tap water is not free, in US, it is (at restaurants)
  • In CZ a beer is cheaper than a glass of water at a restaurant
  • In US, you can have as many refills of water, pop, or coffee for free in restaurants, not in CZ
  • In CZ people work less, enjoy life more, in the US people work too much
  • In CZ, casinos are run by Russian Mob and in US casinos are mostly owned by Native Americans
  • In CZ, society creates free time (stores closed early on Saturday, closed on Sunday, etc) and everything is open in US all the time

Similarities and Differences pt 2

Disclaimer: These are just differences. I am not saying one way is better than the other.

  • USA: we say we are going to a BBQ and CZ says going to a Grill
  • USA uses liquid Vanilla and CZ uses crystal/power...baking powder and baking soda are in packages vs boxes in the US
  • US drinks coffee brewed from grounds and CZ serves instant
  • US often have yards attached to their home and CZ often live in an apartment and have a "garden" close to home or they have a cottage house in addition to their apartment.
  • US city roads are paved and CZ roads are cobblestones
  • Easier in US to use a map while roads in CZ are curvy and confusing for the "enemy"
  • In CZ, their neighborhoods are based around "a church" adn their streets are not straight and not so in the US
  • Many religions/religious people in US...many not religious in CZ
  • CZ meals are often potato based (potato dumplings, potato pancakes, potato goulash, etc) and US meals seem more balanced with veggies and fruit
  • US people seem to live excessively and not so much in CZ
  • Family involvement seems closer in Czech families than US (maybe because families in US usually live far from the rest of their family
  • Their is a McDonald's on ever corner in US, they are rare in CZ
  • US has coffee barns and Starbucks and serve hundreds of different types of coffee and CZ there are more small sit down coffee houses and minimum coffee variety
  • People in CZ seem to take more time for their friends and people in the US tend to get so busy with their own lives and don't have much time for friends
  • People in CZ eat with the fork in their left hand whereas people in US eat with fork in right hand

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Brock, Calan, and I left Prague around 11:50 am for a 2 hour plane ride to Rome. Prague is so central to everything that it is very easy to travel. We landed in Rome and headed for our hostel, Sandy. IT was FUNNY because when our flight landed, they played "Charriots of Fire" on the plane. HA. We found it near the metro, which was nice and climbed the 5 flights to our hostel. We stayed in a 4 bunk room. Since there was three of us, each night we had a new roommate.

Since we were there for only 2 days, we immediately began our walking journey. Most of the things were closed or the lines were too long so we just sight-see'd the first night. We walked to the COLOSSEO and took pictures, and then walked to the ruins. We had dinner at Pizzeria Ponentino where I had the MOST AMAZING pasta. It was a meat sauce with baby die for. We ended up walking most places that first night but headed back to the hostel for bed around 10 pm.

Saturday morning we were up and Adam at 7 am to head to the Vatican. We took the metro there and rushed (because we thought we had to) to get in line at Basilica S. Pietro. The line wasn't long at that time in the morning. I was told I had to cover my was 7 am and 900 degrees and muggy as hell...but I wasn't going to be allowed into the church with sinful uncovered shoulders...luckily I brought a jacket so I threw that on. The inside of the church was breath taking and amazing. There was an actual service going on with singing and prayer. It was just absolutely silent otherwise and spectacular.

After the church I wanted to go to the 16th Chapel but the line was SUPER SUPER long. Apparantly THAT WAS WHERE we were suppose to rush to first thing in the morning. Next time, I guess.

We then walked to the Colosseo and saw the sights along the way. We paid an extra 8 euro to skip the line and go on an English tour. The line was outragous so it definitely was worth it and as it turns out, I actually learned something on the tour:

there was no visible brink in early Roman times, -Earthquake destroyed half of the colosseo, -Pope wanted to destroy the "Pagean Building" so let Romans come in and pilgrimage what they wanted, -Games could last up to 20 days, -animals, slaves were stored below florr and would "shoot" up to amaze the public, - would starve animals for 5 days so they would be tramatized and stressed with shot into the air....-and finally, they had yellow sand on the ground because it was a wonderful contrast with the red blood and entrails.

After the Colosseo we went to the Pantheon and many other sights of Rome. We walked EVERYWHERE and saw everything briefly. We ate as much as we could and soaked in the culture. One thing is for sure, Roman's drive CRAZY and you have to becareful when crossing the street. That is a story all onto itself. We left at 4am on Sunday and flew back to Prague. IT was a short weekend but I am so glad I went and had such an amazing time with the people I was with!!! Where to next????

Fulbright Workshop in Prague

I left Tabor around 11am by train to Prague for the Fulbright Workshop. I arrived in Prague around 12:15 and met Calan and Brock at the train station. The three of us navigated our way (and got lost of course) to our hotel Villa Lanna. Monday was the day for travel so Calan and I went to Wencelas Square to do some shopping. Since nothing fits me in Tabor, Prague is the PERFECT place for me to do some shopping.

WE met up with the other Fulbrights for dinner Monday night. I am not exactly sure of the numbers but I think there are around 9 teacher assistances (all from the US) and researchers from the US either doing their PHd or whatever in the Czech Republic.

During the week, we had many workshops from various previous Fulbrighters (Czechs who had been to the US and are back). Topics covered Czech culture, school system, politics, and social issues. Some were very informative and some not so much.

Tuesday night we all got dressed up and were treated to Don Giovanni at the Estate Theater. To be honest, I was NOT looking forward to the opera. Three hours of singing in Italian was not my idea of fun. But the theater was spectacular and they actually had a screen with subtitles. I didn't realize how funny Don Giovanni was. It either translated funny or they didn't translate it correctly...either way, it was amazing. Calan made a good point that the reason the opera lasts so long is because they repeat everything like 5-10 times. It definitely was a highlight of the week. The other interesting cool thing is that the Estate Theater was the FIRST place that Mozart premiered Don Giovanni. To be sitting in the same place that Mozart conducted was so surreal.

On Wednesday we all went to the US Embassy (actually the space they rent because the actual Embassy has too much security to get in). We were debriefed by various employees of the State Department. It was nice seeing the American Flag. After our debriefing we went to a pub to meet some of the employees. They were so nice to meet with us and talk with us. I didn't know that Embassy employees are only stationed in a place for two years and then they are moved to a new location. I thought they stayed in once place forever.

Thursday we took a three hour tour of Prague. It was very interesting to get the inside scoop of the city. They took us to the street during communism they took the disruptors. It is a famous street but sorry, I don't know the actual name.

Also they told us about an example of actual corruption. You can see that the building is sticking INTO the market square. The building was suppose to be inline with the rest but because of corruption they were able to get more space.

Thursday night we were invited to a house for an Embassy cocktail party. All the state employees we had met the previous night were there as well as all present and past Fulbright participants, and the current headmasters, mentor teachers. The house was extremely beautiful. The story has a history of itself. During WW2 the family that lived there fled. The Nazi's occupied it as their main headquarters. Because it was their headquarters they actually took care of the house. After WW2, the soviets occupied it for a couple of days. Finally, the US arranged a deal with the Czech Republic to forgive war debts for purchase of the house. So for $2 million dollars at that time, the US purchased the house. Not until much later was the original family was compensated for the house. Today it is US soil and used at the house where the US Ambassador lives in the Czech Republic. Currently Obama has not appointed an ambassador so maybe I will apply...ha. There are two surviving daughters from the original family and they live in the US. One comes to visit on a regular basis.

The party was wonderful and it was great to meet a lot of new people and make a lot of new connections.

Friday morning, Calan, Brock and I took off in the morning for Rome....stay tuned for the next post.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Similarities and Differences

So I have been here in the Czech Republic now for a little over 3 weeks. It is been a wonderful adventure exploring a new culture. I absolutely LOVE the Czech Republic. There are some differences between the Czech Republic and the United States. I am going to list a few here and continue to update my list as the year goes on. I am not saying one way is better than the other...just observations :)
  • People in the Czech Republic walk or ride bikes as a main source of transportation. They also use the bus and train system. In America, people rely on their cars
  • Water is not free in restaurants here in CZ. Beer is cheaper than a glass of water and you do not get free refills. In USA, water is free and you can have as many refills for free as you want. Also in the USA when you buy a soda, you get as many refills for free as well. Not here.
  • Students wear "indoor" shoes while in school. They must change their shoes when entering the school and most wear birkenstocks. Not in the USA
  • EVERYONE must wear "indoor" shoes when going into someone's home. It is very similar to the Hawaiian Style shoe method in the USA
  • Teachers do not have their own classroom. They move from room to room and students move from room to room.
  • In CZ you shower sitting down (few stand up showers) and in the USA we have stand up showers
  • Teachers have their desk in a "Kabinet" (office) with another small group of teachers. There are kabinets through out the school based on section of teaching. In the USA, teachers have their own classroom so they don't share an office.
  • People in the CZ meet for coffee and socialize, usually in an outdoor patio restaurant (when it isn't raining or doors when it is) and in the USA there is Starbucks, and people go in, get their coffee, and leave...not too much socializing. It is a way of life here and on this topic...I like the CZ way better :)
  • Mushrooming is a hobby of MANY people in the CZ. In America, we don't know the poison ones from the good ones so I don't know anyone that goes mushrooming
  • Women in the CZ get 2,3, or 4 years PAID materinity leave to raise their child. In USA (least for teachers) you get 3 months, unpaid.
  • People grocery shop for a day or two at a time and MUST bring their own bag. In America, people shop for food for a month at a time and stores provide bags

Here is the list so far....I will continue to update as time goes on

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Official Day of School

Yesterday was actually the first day of school but here in the Czech Republic, kids come for an hour on the first with their "class" teacher, get their "time tables" (schedules) and then go home. SWEET deal for us language teachers who didn't have to teach yesterday.
I officially started teaching my classes today. Today I only had 4 classes. All classes are 45 minutes was 90 minutes long.
I was very nervous, not becuase I thought I couldn't teach but just because I am at a different school with kids I have never met. It is the waiting that is the worst part. My first class started at 9:40 and teachers in the Czech Republic don't have to be to school until 15 minutes before their first class (same for students)-but the overachiever in me had me arriving at 8 am...well before my first class. Teachers are separated into "offices" and that is where our desk, copy machine, supplies, etc are. I am located in the CZ/language office so there are 9 of us in my office. We each have our own desk side by side in the middle of the room with 3 computers located on the back wall.
My first class is called 3D. That means they are 3rd year in their language courses and they are pretty fluent (still learning though) in English language. Iva (my colleague) team taught with me today so we divided up the 45 minutes into different activities. We had them discuss their summer holiday and then discussed it whole class. There were 30 kids in there because Iva and I had our two groups together but normally I will see only 15 at a time (same for her). The kids were very nice but shy and not eager to volunteer to talk, but when I called on them, they answered the question and their English was very good.
My next class was right after 3D. I had a 10 minute break between classes so enough time to go back to my office, grab the next classes stuff, wait for a minute and then head to class. Teachers DO NOT arrive at class until 3-5 minutes AFTER the start of class. I walked to my next class (the school is 5 stories tall and I teach EVERYWHERE) and walked in. Students in the Czech Republic stand when a teacher walks in the room in the beginning and the teacher waits for all students to stand, tells them to sit, and then the lesson begins. SOOOOOOO, I walked into the class, they all stood, I told them to sit, and then they didn't look the age that I was told they would be....I asked them if they were V5G (the name of my class...which means young ones...they are 5 years into their 8 year program) and they said NO. I told them I was in the wrong room...they LAUGHED...and I walked out completely embarrassed. My actual classroom was right next door. Oh well...first day something is bound to happen.
SOOOOOO I walked into my correct V5G (15-16 year olds) and they stood, I told them to sit, and proceeded to break the ice with my embarrassing story that just happened. We did introductions, I passed out expectations, they got into small groups and discussed their summer holiday, and then it was basically time to go. The 45 minutes flew by. This class was very nice but they were very shy and when the spoke, it was hard to hear them because they spoke so quietly.
My third class was at 1:20 and it is called V8G. They are final year (8th year of their 8 year plan) in English. They are so far my FAVORITE class. They are 18-19 year olds and I did my introductions, and asked if they had any questions of me. Every other class so far, had maybe 1 or 2 questions but this class had SEVERAL. We must have spent 20-30 minutes just talking about America, where I am from, why I am here, etc. The class was very polite, and super helpful and the 45 minutes just went by too quickly. I only see this class once a week on Thursday so I won't see them again until next Thursday.
My final class of the day is called KA, which means conversation class. I team teach this class with a Czech teacher (as do I with the rest) and we had to figure out a way to divide the 30 kids into 2 group with me....and one group with the Czech teacher. If we simply asked them whose group they wanted to be in, they would want mine...of course....:)Of course we had to be fair, so my colleague developed a test to give them today and then we would score it and put the highest 15 kids in my class and they would take the lowest 15. The test was hard for the kids. It consisted of a reading part, fill in the blank part, and a listening part. It took the kids about an hour of the 90 minutes to finish the test. We let them leave after they were finished and would tell them which group they are in next Tuesday. I only see 15 of the 30 kids every Thursday as well.
So overall it was a busy day. I loved my first day and had such a great experience. The kids were very nice, polite and seemed excited to have me there.
In all I teach 3D, V5G, V7G, V8G, 4C, 4D, and I have 3 different coversation groups(7 different preps). I meet each class 2 times a week for 45 minutes and each conversation group once a week for 90 minutes. I won't have more than 15/16 kids in a class so it is going to be a nice treat from the amount I am use to in the States.