Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fulbright Mid Year Conference- Trencianske Treplice

I cannot believe that it is almost mid year!  I have almost been in the Czech Republic for six months.  This is the point when I wish I could freeze time so that I could spend as much time in my favorite places a little longer.  This year the Mid Year Fulbright Conference was to be held in Trencianske Treplice in the Slovak Republic.  Trencianske Treplice is a small spa town located about an hour south of the Czech border.  It is one of the most popular and beautiful spa towns in Slovakia.  It has natural thermal springs and mountainous surroundings.
     I ventured to Vsetin on Saturday to spend the day/night at Calan's.  We had a fun time together visiting and we had the best dinner.  Calan made spaghetti and meatballs.  They were the best meatballs, next to my grandmother's, and I was so stuffed after dinner.  Dessert were homemade chocolate chip cookies that Calan also made...geez...it definitely is great having friends that know how to cook...
     Since Trencianske Treplice was only an hour and half train ride from Vsetin, we decided to take the train from her place.  We wanted to spend some time around the town, taking pictures, and soaking up the perks at spa hotel before the rest of the Fulbrighters arrived, so we left at 11.  The trip was uneventful for the most part.  We had a total of three train connections and everything was going smoothly through the first two connections.  Then the adventure began.
      We arrived in Trencianske Tepla and we were suppose to catch our "third" train at 12:25.  Well....12:25 came and went, 12:30 came and went, 12:35 came and went...I was able to use my Czech language skills I have acquired so far to ask some travelers what to do.  I also had a butchered conversation with the lady who sells the train tickets.  She assured me that yes, there was a 12:25 train, in which I responded..."neni vlak" which means in limited Czech, "it isn't train".  She pointed to the list that the next train wasn't until 2 something.  The adventure continues...Back to those first travelers.  They found us again and this time brought along a train worker, who walked us AROUND the train station to this small dinky Trolley/Tram track where we were SUPPOSE to catch our 12:25 train.  We didn't know that you had to walk around the train station...
     The train worker told me in Slovak that we could walk a bit to the bus station (all of which I understood) so we walked, freezing our butts on in the process.  As we were looking and looking and re looking at the bus schedule, a local older man figured out our destination and started to talk to us in Slovak.  Czech and Slovak have very similar languages so we were able to communicate.  I found out that he use to work for a Morse code place and makes these large metal plates.  He got on the bus with us, told us which stop to get off at, and walked us to the front door of our hotel, Hotel Flora.  I am not sure if he even originally needed to get on the bus or if he took pity on us so decided we needed his protection.  Either way, if we had made our original "third" train connection we would never have met our nice old man, and wouldn't have gotten a personal escort to our final destination.  We got to meet a nice local AND I got to put all the money I spend on Czech language lessons to use.  Oh the adventures that we have!
     Calan and I checked into our hotel around 3, dropped our bags on in our rooms, and applied the necessary uniform:  spa bathrobe and bathing suit.  I know, such torture.  We donned our attire and headed for the spa.  We were able to enjoy the steam sauna, two dry saunas, and the pool for a couple hours before the rest of the gang arrived.  I am not going to lie..it was a little slice of heaven.
     We had a meeting at 5:30pm to meet all the new teacher assistants, researchers, lecturers, and fellow Fulbrighters from the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.  After our initial meeting we had a wonderful dinner and then...back to the spa.  Calan and I signed up for a foot reflex massage for that night.  Being a licensed massage therapist, I have to admit...I could have done better.  I don't think the Slovaks understand the meaning of pressure. All work and no play...such a rough start :)
      Monday meetings started at 8am.  All the teachers (Calan, Brock, and me) gave a 20 minute presentation about our Fulbright experiences so far.  Then the lecturers, researchers, and Ph.D graduates gave their presentations.  Our meetings broke for a fabulous lunch at the hotel and then back to meetings which ended at 3pm.  Most people signed up for massages and enjoyed the perks of the hotel.    I signed up for a shiatsu massage for Monday.  I had never had a shiatsu massage so this would be a new experience for me.  I walked into the massage room and was told to lie on the mat.  The massage therapist did a lot of compressions and stretches but it was nothing like I had expected.  Again, proving that Slovaks don't know about pressure.  Since I was on the floor, my neck hurt more AFTER I left the massage than before it started...but it was all about the experience. After the massage, it was back to the saunas and pool until dinner at 6pm.  It was a night of relaxation and pampering.
     Tuesday meetings resumed at 8am and this time the teacher assistants gave their presentations.  We all met for lunch around 12:30 and then back to the meetings. I signed up for an Ayurveda massage for Tuesday.  I had never had an Indian massage so this would be a new experience for me.  I walked into the massage room and was told to lie on the table.  In Europe people are not so worried about nakedness.  It was my first experience with standing naked in front of a massage therapist. Modesty aside, I dropped the robe and bounded onto the table...trying to look at calm as possible (and not like I was embarrassed).  The Indian Massage was basically a sweedish massage with lots and lots and lots and lots of warm oil.  I actually enjoyed the massage but I would have liked...you guessed it...a little more pressure.  After the massage, can you guess what I did...that's right...back to the saunas and pool.  When the spa time was done, I attempted to shower several times to get the oil out of my hair...um...that is not going to happen for awhile.  Such a rough rough rough life.
      We have some meetings tomorrow (Wednesday) morning and then after lunch we are packing up and setting off on the long bus ride back to Prague and back to the real world.  I have to admit, that after three days of pampering, it is going to be rough to go back to work on Thursday.  My mind is so far away from what I am suppose to teach on Thursday.  I think all the spoiling relaxed me too much.  Shh...don't tell my school that though :)

 Me giving my Fulbright Mid Year Presenation.  As you can see in the background, there are pictures of me and mom.  One of the topics of our presentation was to talk about "Important People".  Of course I had to start that section with my mom.  I explained to everyone that without my mom, this experience would not be possible.  It definitely means the world to me that I have my mom's support through this journey.

This is a picture of my new, super cool friend Jennifer.  She is a lecturer in Slovakia.  She is from California and she has so much positive energy.

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