Sunday, November 29, 2009

So, life in Prague has been as normal as it can be living abroad… I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, so I’ll do my best to remember everything that’s happened in the past few weeks…

First and foremost, I LOVE my job. The hours can be a bit grueling (7 am-6:30 am on Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 am-8:30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays) so I’m usually exhausted at the end of the day, but it is all worth it. I especially love teaching my post-secondary classes. I teach 2 of them, and there are about 13 students in each class, and because I see them every day, it’s been really great getting to know them and their individual personalities. Not to mention, its really cool seeing how much they have progressed. Even though we’ve been in class for only 2 months now, I can see an improvement in each of my students’ abilities, and it is really exciting and fulfilling. Also, it’s fun because most of them are between the ages of 19-21, so I have been trying to incorporate music, television, and movies into their lessons so it is more enjoyable for them (and me!). It’s also fun teaching them the slang and colloquial English that we use that they won’t find in their books (but if they were to go to the US or watch American television/movies they would definitely hear all the time). They are all great kids and I love teaching those classes.

I also teach a class at the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Defense, which is really cool. It is located at the castle and when I go there I have to go through a metal detector and get escorted by a military policeman (because I’m very dangerous, I know!).

I’ve had a few visitors here too, which has been a good taste of home. Friends from College of Charleston, Sean and Ben, visited over Halloween and we went out a few times and then celebrated Halloween together. Halloween isn’t a big holiday here, in fact, no one really celebrates it, but this one club SaSaZu had a huuuuuge Halloween party that we went to and it was great. SaSaZu is the biggest club in Central Europe and we’ve been wanting to go for a long time, but it’s very expensive. So when we found out that SaSaZu was having a Halloween party with free admission for those who dress in a costume, all of us poor teachers jumped at the opportunity to go. It was a really cool and upscale club- it was HUGE- and really nice and there were a ton of people there.

Yorke Lawson (Rabbit’s cousin) also paid a visit to Prague and we had some great times together. One of my favorite nights thus far in Praha was when Yorke, a friend of his living in Prague, Z, who has now become one of my friends too, and I went to a concert. It was a Tuesday, and Yorke sent me a text message about going to a concert if he could get tickets. I jumped at the opportunity to see a show, and even though it was a school night and I had no idea who the band was, I gave him a definite “yes”. I had been in class all day and luckily the venue was in the same building as my school, so I went straight from class (at 8:30 pm) to the show (with my books and everything!). I had no idea who was playing, I didn’t even have time to look them up on the internet, but I was just excited to see some live music with some good people. The minute the band struck the first chord and the lights started going, I knew I was in the right spot. The band, Massive Attack, is apparently a very very popular electronic band here in Europe, and has been very popular since the 1980s, and the house was packed!! The show was unbelievable. The music was great (definitely my type of music) and the light/visual show was fantastic. Seeing big, live shows like that is one of the things I miss from home (I mean, I saw a show almost every week!) and the band was great, so it was really a spectacular time.

Later that week, on Friday night, I was also fortunate enough to get an invitation to see the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra play at the Rudolphium in Prague. Yorke invited me to join him to see this performance, and I was very excited because the Rudolphium is legendary for its beauty and for its acoustics, and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra is a treat to see perform in itself. Yorke got fantastic seats on the front row in the balcony, and we saw Ion Martin, a famous Austrian conductor, conducted a Beethoven piece, a Schubert piece, and a Tchaikovsky piece. They were all beautiful, but Tchaikovsky was definitely my favorite.

Recently, November 17, was the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution here in Prague. The Velvet Revolution signified the end of communism here in the Czech Republic, and it was when 800,000 students marched in protest from one end of the city to the other end, in a peaceful, non-violent demonstration against communism. To commemorate this day, the march was re-created, and my friends and I, along with 8,000 other people, marched the same path as the protestors did 20 years ago. It was a really cool experience, and interesting too. I was surprised because you’d think that people would be cheering and singing and celebrating along this march, but everyone was very passive. The marchers walked very slowly, and it was eerily silent. There was the occasional cheer or applause, but for the most part it seemed like kind of a solemn occasion. I guess that’s just how the Czeskys do it!

So, this was my first Thanksgiving without my family, and it was sad to miss out on the festivities, but we had our own ex-pat Thanksgiving yesterday (Saturday) because we are all teachers with crazy schedules and could not prepare a suitable feast during the week. So 13 of us Americans (well 1 Brit and 1 Czech) took it upon ourselves to celebrate Thanksgiving right. Anneliese spent hours chopping bread and veggies to make a (delicious) stuffing, Ali made fantastic cookies and pumpkin pie, and I made homemade macaroni and cheese (of course). And it was a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a delicious turkey cooked to perfection, and tons and tons of food, friends, and cheap wine! It was so much fun, and like a real Thanksgiving, we have leftovers to last us weeks!

On a more solemn note, one of our friends and fellow English teachers here in Prague, disappeared 8 days ago in Frankfurt Germany. Devon Hollohan went with his friend to a concert last Friday night and vanished off the street. We have all been very worried about him, and we are doing everything we can to find him. Thanks to my mom, we were able to contact various news outlets across the US and his parents have appeared on the Today Show and the Morning Show, and the story has run in many newspapers both in the US and in Germany. It’s been a tense week but we all are keeping Devon in our thoughts and prayers, and hope that we will start to get some answers soon. I never thought something like this would hit so close to home, and it has made me and my friends even more cautious than before.

I’m looking forward to my return home for the holidays… December 19-January 2. 21 days!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


September 26-28, 2009

Ali, Anneliese, and I went to Berlin for a long weekend and had an AMAZING time! We rushed to the train station after our Friday classes to catch our train, and when we boarded the train it was PACKED! We didn’t know we needed a reservation to get a seat in a cabin, so once the train arrived it was a free-for-all to find an open seat. Needless to say, we didn’t get seats together on the train, and I didn’t get a seat at all! I had to sit in the hallway! But after about 2 hours people began getting off the train, and for the last 2.5 hours of the ride, Ali, Anneliese and I had our own cabin, which was nice.

We got to Berlin, and after some struggle figuring out how to get to Mitte (the city center) where our hostel was, we finally made it. We stayed at Wombats, a youth hostel, and it was so much nicer than we excepted. The rooms were really clean and they gave us sheets for free, which is pretty uncommon in hostels. Charlie and Kinnon met us at the bar at the top of our hostel—they had been in Berlin for a few days at this point—and we made plans to go out. We found out that “Modeselektor”, a German house/electronic DJ duo which we like a lot was playing at a club in Berlin, so that was a great surprise! We went to WMF, the club where they were playing, and it was so cool. There were 3 floors with different DJs/bands playing on each floor and crazy lights all around. It was packed! It was really cool to get the Euro clubbing experience since there really isn’t anything of that magnitude in Praha. So we stayed at WMF until about 5 am partying and dancing the night away…

We made it back to the hostel around 5:30 and immediately crashed in bed. The next morning we woke up (feeling not so well) and made plans for the afternoon. We went on this great tour called the “Alternative Tour” which was so cool. It took us around the city and taught us about the alternative suc-culture which has flourished in the city since the fall of the Berlin wall. We learned a lot of interesting things and saw some really awesome street art. A lot of the tour taught us about graffiti, which was legal in Berlin until 2005 through a loophole in the government which said that if you find a building to be unaestheticlly pleasing, you have the right to “redecorate” it. So you could literally be caught by the police with spray-paint in your hand, and if you say you are “redecorating” you wouldn’t be breaking any law. However, the government eventually realized they were spending $30 million Euros a year removing graffiti from public buildings, so in 2005 this loophole was removed. However, graffiti is still insanely popular in Berlin, and Berlin has become a Mecca of sorts for graffiti artists around the world. There’s this one guy they call “Mister 6” who just spray-paints 6s around the city. It’s estimated that there are over 600,000 6s around the city!! What’s cool is that this graffiti is not vandalism- it is an art form, and many of the pieces have a very political message as well. In fact, the largest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall is now called the East Side Gallery, and it is divided up between artists where they can display their art as murals on the wall. It’s quite spectacular.

We also visited various squats around the city. When the Berlin Wall fell, many East Berlin residents left because they finally had the freedom to travel outside the wall. As a result, many buildings- both commercial and residential- were left empty. So, the government made an amnesty with the people saying that anyone could squat in these vacant buildings until someone claimed the land. Some groups of people even got leases on these buildings for super cheap—like $5 a year—until 2030 or later. So whole communities of like-minded people have set up squats at various locations around the city; there’s an artists’ squat, an anarchists’ squat, even a vegan lesbian squat! I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Another, more depressing, thing that we learned on the tour was this movement called “Media Spree” happening in Berlin. The River Spree runs through the city, and currently the river is lined with many public green spaces and a number of squats. These green spaces are really integral to the city, as it is some of the only land where city residents can enjoy nature and bring their children to play, and the squats are home to thousands of people as well. However, this “Media Spree” is a movement where all of the big-name media companies (Universal, Sony, MTV, O2, amongst others) have come together to form a huge conglomeration, and they are developing all the land along this river. This means that the public green space will be developed, and the squatters will be kicked out! There are also many “beach bars” (really just bars on the river with some sand to look like beach!) and other businesses that have become sort of institutions in the city that will have to close when the developing begins. One of these parks is called YAAM, or the Youth African Arts Market. We stopped by here and it was such a cool place, it is such a shame it is closing! It is right on the beach, and it serves as a public community center for Berlin. It was initially begun as a place for social workers to bring children in the system to play sports and have a wholesome community safe environment. They have giant tee-pees and huge stretches of sand to play in, and there are adults from various African countries grilling out and playing music and having fun. YAAM had such a positive, loving, and energetic atmosphere, and it is such a shame that it will be shut down because of Media Spree. It has been a safe haven in a city of tumult for about 30 years now, and it will be gone by the end of this year. And the worst part about it is that there is nothing we can do to save it.

On Sunday we did the New Europe Free Tour of Berlin (yay for free!), and lucked out and got the same tour guide that took us on the Alternative Tour. It was a great tour and I really learned a lot about the city. Jack (our tour guide) started the tour by making a really good point- Berlin as a city and government has many of the same problems as any 19-year old would have. It’s struggling with its new independence, still making lots of mistakes, and has things (in this case, buildings) popping up all over its face! And in a way, I think Prague is also kind of similar. Anyway, we started our tour at the Riechstag, which is the seat of the German Parliament. The original Riechstag was plowed down by Hitler and his army, and was rebuilt in 1990 after the fall of the wall. What is really cool is that they have built this spiraling glass dome above the Parliamentary chamber, and it is free for people to go up into this dome and look over the Parliamentary meetings. So, while Parliament is in session making laws and decisions, they have people looking down on them from above, symbolically reminding them that the people are above the government.

Next we went to the Holocaust memorial. I had heard a lot about this memorial and it has been a source of controversy within and outside Berlin since it was built. It was built in 2005 by Peter Gisman, a NYC architect. Basically what it is is hundreds of concrete pillars of different sizes in a grid. It’s interactive, and you can walk between the pillars like a maze. There are no names or symbols or anything on the memorial, so people can have their own interpretation. It’s built on some sort of hill, so the further you walk into the grid, the higher the pillars get until they are towering over your head, but on the surface they all appear to be relatively the same size. Also, the further you walk into, the colder and darker it gets because the pillars block all of the sun. So I really interpreted it as representing something that starts off small, but then snowballs and becomes a huge problem because people ignore it and just go about their everyday lives. It’s in the heart of the city, so people must walk by it every day. As a result, people must face the reality of the Holocaust every single day, and it forces you to remember it so that nothing like it can ever happen again.

What’s cool about Berlin is they have had some really dark times throughout history, and rather than ignore all of the horrible things that have happened there, they memorialize it though various monuments and pieces of art. The city by no means glorifies these times, but it forces citizens and tourists to recognize what has happened, pay respect to those who lost their lives and fought for freedom, and make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.

Another really cool memorial was the Nazi Book Burning Memorial. There was a movement of book burnings in 1933, when the Nazis burned any books that did not follow Nazi ideology. Humbolt University, in Berlin, fell victim to these book burnings. The Nazis burned over 20,000 books in their library, including original pieces by Martin Luther, and works by Einstein. To memorialize this event, an Israeli artist created a piece called “Library”; there is a hole in the ground, covered with plexi-glass, above the library where the burning took place. You can look through the glass down into a room that is empty, except for bookshelves. There are enough bookshelves to hold about 20,000 books—the number of books that were burned in 1933. The room is hermetically sealed so no one will ever be able to go back in there. These empty shelves in a room no one can enter represents the presence of absence, and is there to remind us that we’ve lost some treasures that we will never be able to get back. And for what?

So, how did they memorialize Hitler? The Germans tried to blow his bunker up, but as it was a bomb shelter, that wasn’t very effective. So, they put a dog park on the land over his bunker, which was where he hid out during his last few weeks and where he eventually killed himself. There is nothing that identifies the location of his bunker- the Germans chose to memorialize Hilter by allowing their dogs to defecate on his home and safe haven. I thought that was hilarious.

I also learned a lot about the history of the Berlin Wall, and the most interesting part—that it fell all by mistake… So, the Berlin Wall, was actually 2 walls. It started as just a barbed wire fence separating East and West Berlin but eventually that was made into a thicker, higher, fence, and then eventually 2 walls- interior and exterior. Between these walls was the “Death Strip” which was patrolled by soldiers with a shoot to kill policy. On top of the walls was sewage piping, which just so happens to be wide enough in diameter that a human cannot wrap his/her arms around it, so they just slide back down. 236 people died trying to cross this wall, but there were 20,000 successful attempts. And the whole reason the Berlin Wall fell in the first place was all by mistake—and I had no idea! Apparently a German political spokesperson Gunter Shabowski had the task of giving a press conference related to new rules/regulations about the Berlin wall. Well, needless today, he did not prepare himself for this speech and did not bother to read these new rules, so during the press conference, he made the mistake of announcing that the border would be open effective immediately! And that’s how the Berlin Wall fell…

Overall, I had an AMAZING weekend in Berlin. It is such a cool city with so many interesting bits of history that really defines it as a city and makes it unique. But what I loved about it the most is the way they use art to memorialize various aspects of its history…. whether it is an empty void of a room to remember the Nazi book burnings, or a neon sign of a never-ending rock-paper-scissors game to represent the clashes of neighborhoods, to the street art you see everywhere. This weekend in Berlin is one I’ll never forget, and I hope I will be able to visit it again!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

OK, so lots of updates:

Friday afternoon Charlie and Kinnon arrived in Prague. I was really excited to see them and had lots of exciting plans for us. It was kind of surreal though, hanging out in Prague, because we have gone to school together since the 6th grade, so going out together in a city half way across the world was cool. On Friday night we went to a really cool club called the Cross Club, and it was nuts. It looks like it came straight out of a Tim Burton movie- they had multiple levels with different DJs playing different kinds of music on each level, and the walls were covered with crazy moving mechanical things and the light fixtures moved and changed colors. I’ve never seen anything like it before, it was definitely the coolest club/bar I’ve ever been to. We stayed out until about 4 am and took the night tram back to my apartment. The night tram in Prague is like the drunk bus because it’s the only mode of public transportation from 12-5 am so everyone on it is rowdy and crazy and drunk and it’s a lot of fun. We got off the night tram near my house and got a bit turned around, and walked around for about 30 minutes until (thanks to Charlie’s iPhone) we found our way back. After making late-night quesadillas with the most delicious cheese (pepper cheddar) we all crashed so we could rest up for the adventure we had planned for Saturday.

Saturday at 2 we caught the bus to Orlik, a town in the countryside about an hour outside Prague. The ride was beautiful, and I really enjoyed getting to see another part of the country. Our mission: falling into the 4th dimension. There is the bridge in Orlik that is really high above a valley with a river at the bottom. And off this bridge you can “jump into the 4th dimension”. Essentially it’s bungee jumping, but they use 2 bungee cords, so you fall extra far as you are also jumping over a large valley. So it’s as if you’re “jumping into the 4th dimension”. We were all really stoked about doing this and have been talking about it for weeks. When we get to Orlik, we walk about 5 km to this bridge, only to find no one there. As it turns out, the company was closed for the season, so we couldn’t jump. There was another company somewhere in the forest, 15 km away, however. We thought it would be smart to check when the last bus returned to Prague before we embark on another journey to find this place. At this point it is 4:15 and we find out that the last bus to Prague is at 5:30. So, defeated, we turned around and head back to the bus station thinking at least we could go back to Prague and get ready to go out. Wrong. While it took us only an hour to get to Orlik, the ride back was not so easy. We had to take an 1.5 hour bus to Pisek, a town even further from Prague, stay in Pisek for 2 hours, and then take another 1.5 hour bus ride back to Prague. So we got back into Prague around 11, worn out and unmotivated to do much of anything.

On Sunday evening we we went to a hockey game and it was really fun. Sparta Praha v. Barolsav. The Czechs are so intense about hockey here! And they have cheerleaders who dance to really horrible 80s rock music, which I thought was hilarious. Not to mention the cheerleaders themselves are horrible and have less coordination than I do and it's just really funny to watch them. And the hockey isn't nearly as violent as it is in the US which I thought was interesting. It was kind of a bummer actually because in my opinion one of the best parts about hockey games is watching the players hit the sh** out of each other and slam each other up against the walls. There weren't fights and there were maybe 3 penalties the entire game. But still fun nonetheless.

I officially started my job on Monday and I love it! I teach 2 post-secondary classes of about 14 students in each class, and they are from the ages of 19-21. These classes are 3 hours a day (for them—I teach only half) and its an intensive English course. Basically these are students who didn’t get into university or didn’t want to go to university or dropped out of high school, and post-secondary classes are recognized by the Czech Ministry of Education as attending school so their parents can get the benefits of them being enrolled in school. I was kind of nervous about this at first because I thought that they would be unmotivated and not very smart, but actually they are great kids, very smart, and we have a lot of fun together. So I’m really enjoying teaching those classes and in October I begin teaching a few business English classes.

And I’m SUPER EXCITED because Monday’s classes are cancelled for some Czech holiday (St. Wenceslas Day or something like that) so tomorrow (Friday) Ali and Anneliese and I are going to Berlin for the weekend! And Charlie and Kinnon will be there too so we are going to have another great weekend together. I’m really excited because I haven’t had a chance to travel since I’ve been to Prague, and I hear so many great things about Berlin.

Well I must get back to lesson planning…

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The long awaited update...

So I’ve been really slack about updating my blog, and I apologize, but it just goes to show how little free time I had while taking the TEFL class.

I finished my class on Friday September 4 (with a Strong Pass, YAY) and also got the great news that I was hired at a language school here in Prague called IJV that I had interviewed with on Thursday. So that was really exciting, because it is a great school and a great company to work for.  They guide you through the whole process of applying for a visa, which is really confusing and complicated with a lot of bureaucratic BS, so that is really helpful.  What’s even better is they pay for their employees’ visas, which is even better news because the whole process is super expensive.  So I’m really excited about my new job, and my roommates Annelise and Ali got jobs there too so that’s great.

The TEFL course was really demanding and really difficult, but it was a great experience.  I learned so much about communication with others, and it was really helpful not only for learning how to teach (not to mention learning the English language!) but also for learning how to talk to people and how to communicate with people of all types.  But our teaches Trish and Terry were amazing, and I feel really prepared to begin working.  I got my class assignments on Friday, and I’ll be teaching 2 post-secondary classes which are for students 19-21 years old who want to take an intensive year of English for various reasons and it’s recognized by the Czech Government’s Ministry of Education.  I’ll also be teaching a few English classes at businesses around the city.  I don’t officially begin my contract until September 21, but I substitute a few classes this week for my friends that are “on holiday” in Italy and Austria (I’m jealous!!). 

I’ve gotten to do a few cool things on the weekends while taking the class.  We went paddleboating on the river one day, which was a lot of fun.  They rent out paddleboats for really cheap and you can take it on the Vltava.  You get such a beautiful view from the city, and we paddled down the river to a river beer garden and listened to a musician play some tunes on his guitar.  It was really cool. 

I also got to go see RADIOHEAD which was AWESOME.  One of the best shows I’ve ever seen, not to mention I got to see them in Prague which is so cool.  It was a great show, with a fantastic light show, and just an all-around surreal experience.  One thing that was different, but smart, was how they sold beer at the show.  They made you put a deposit on your cup, and you had to buy a new cup every time you bought a beer.  For example, to get a beer I had to pay 50 Kc for the cup and 40 Kc for the beer, so each time I had to pay 90 Kc.  However, there is a separate tent where you can sell your cups back, and you get all the money back for the cup that you deposited (all 50 Kc).  So that prevented people from littering, and saved a lot of trash because people didn’t want to waste 50 Kc (about $2.50) for every beer they bought.  So at the end of the night, the venue was so clean!!! I’ve never seen anything like that done in the US and it’s a great idea. 

On Tuesday I went to Kutna Hora.  It was so cool! It’s this little town outside of Prague- about an hour train ride.  They have this ossuary called Kostnice that is decorated with the remains of over 40,000 human bodies.  It’s pretty crazy, there are chandeliers made from entire skeletons, and all the walls are decorated with bones, and there are pyramids of bones everywhere.  It’s really eerie and creepy, but it’s so crazy because it doesn’t seem real.  I saw all the bones on the wall, but they are everywhere so it doesn’t really register that those are actual human bodies that are covering the walls and ceilings.  It’s unbelievable.    

I also had my first experience with trying to decipher a Czech hair bleaching kit.  So it’s been about 6 weeks since I’ve had my hair done, and my true colors are starting to show.  I haven’t officially started working and I’ve had to pay 3 months worth of rent in the past month with no income, so spending money on getting my hair done is my last priority at the moment.  So, one day after one of my classes I asked a student with great blonde hair what she used, and she wrote down the brand and name of the dye she used.  I went to the store to buy the bleach and there was an elderly woman with silver hair on the cover of the box.  I was really skeptical about using this, and figured my student must have given me the wrong name, so I went one step down which looked like what I wanted.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but I thought I knew best and that this would all work out.  So my roommate Anneliese (who is great) helped me do my hair, and it was quite a task trying to decipher the instructions on the box, which were all in Czech.  It was a leap of faith, but Anneliese did a great job, and I think we may need to do one more go-round, but I will remain a blonde! Yay!

The weather is starting to get a bit cooler, and I’m getting more and more nervous for the winter.  I am so unprepared! My feet are getting very cold in my Rainbows, and I’m finding myself wearing more and more layers each day.  Luckily, my mom made a great contact with an airline pilot who flies from Charleston to Prague (go Deb!).  She stuffed a bag full of hoodies and 20 boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, which could have been quite possibly the coolest thing a mom can do, and sent it along with Dan.  So for the time being I have my favorite hoodies, a couple more pairs of pants, and 20 boxes of Mac and Cheese, which has just been the icing on the cake for my life here in Prague.  Mac and Cheese is such a commodity here because they don’t sell it in stores, it’s been quite a struggle not having it for the past month. 

Life is great here, the only thing I think I could complain about is food restrictions.  I’m so used to going to the grocery store and being able to get anything I want to cook whatever I want.  They don’t have the majority of foods we have in the states.  For example, no cream of chicken or cream of mushroom.  The spaghetti sauce tastes like plaster.  I tried to make baked ziti the other day an had a near conniption trying to figure out which of the sealed packages was ricotta cheese and where I could find sour cream because I couldn’t understand any labels.  Hummus is virtually non-existant in this city.  I still can’t figure out how to turn my oven on.  There must be a quicker way to turn my stove on—it’s a gas stove and it’s really tempermental so usually I just hold it on light for 2 or 3 minutes until I trust it’s lit, and even then sometimes it isn’t.  But it all works out in the end, and if that’s my only complaint then I guess life’s pretty grand. 

I’ve discovered some new foods that have made up for the loss of much of the old foods that were staples in my former life in the States.  Number one is definitely the Donner Kebab.  It’s so delicious.  It’s like a gyro but better—it has lamb meat, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, and a yogurt tzaiki sauce, but the best part is that the pita is made out of this awesome bread that I can really only equate to Panini bread.  Its only 60 kc (about $3) and it’s so much food and sooooo good…. I even had one for breakfast the other day.  Number two awesomest food is the Fried Cheese Sandwich.  I mean, you can’t really beat that.  The Fried Cheese Sandwich is the “drunk food” of Prague, but I’m not gonna lie… I love it and I eat it sober.  It’s like a cheese patty that is deep fried and served on a bun.  I like it with mayo, some people put ketchup on it.  Sounds very good for you, huh? But it’s so delicious, I don’t know why it hasn’t made it to the states yet. 

They also make the cheese spread that they sell in grocery stores.  It comes in a little plastic tub and it’s a very yummy snack.  They have so much cheese of so many different kinds here, its like heaven.  Ali and I were exploring our neighborhood today and we stumbled upon a Cheese Shop.  It’s meant to be that there is a cheese shop within walking distance from my apartment. 

It was really cool exploring our neighborhood today.  Since I’ve been so busy with school, I haven’t had a chance to look around my ‘hood.  It’s really cool.  My friends and roommates and I joke that we live in “Praguelyn” because our neighborhood is like Brooklyn while Old Town Prague (Praguehattan) is like Manhattan.  But our area is awesome—there is a little theatre, lots of little restaurants and bars, a bowling ally, and a huuuuuge park.  And the park is sweet because there are lots of hills and it slopes down to the river and there are weeping willows and its really beautiful.  And people have their dogs everywhere just running around. 

Ok well it’s getting really late and I can barely keep my eyes open but I really wanted to write something since it’s been so long.  I promise to be better at writing more frequently!  

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Today the group did an orientation tour of Prague.  It was great to meet some new students who didn’t come out to the pub crawl last night.  We started by going to the Cathedral and the Castle which were really beautiful, but we didn’t go inside.  The lines are super long and something you have to devote a few hours to seeing but it was good to at least view them from the outside.  I will have to go back one day when I have more time.  And we saw the soldiers guarding the castle that are so stoic and won’t move.  That job would be so horrible! The guards are supposed to be completely expressionless and still, and they are supposed to look straight ahead, but one of the guards was definitely shifting his eyes and looking all the women up and down! Typical guy, right?! J

We then walked down the big hill that the castle is on, which gave really beautiful vistas of the city from across the river, and walked over the Charles Bridge, which was packed like always, but still worth the experience.  We walked allll around the city.  We 

saw another David Cuerny statue, this time it was a fountain and it’s two guys peeing and their hips swivel from side to side.  Apparently if you text a number on a plaque next to the fountain, they will write whatever you text with their “pee”.  Pretty funny but also kind of disgusting.  This David Cuerny guy must be quite a character.  

We went back to Old Time Square and saw the Astronomical Clock again, then went and ate a traditional Czech meal.  It was delicious! I ordered cheese croquettes as an appetizer and the waitress warned me that it smelled really really bad but was delicious.  When she brought it out it was so rank! It smelled up the whole restaurant and the unsuspecting re

st of the group at a different table started freaking because it smelled so bad.  Even some people on the other side of the restaurant smoking smelled it! But it was SO DELICIOUS and totally worth suffering through the smell.  Actually, once you tasted it you couldn’t smell it anymore, which I thought was kind of weird.  The rest of my meal was delicious (but of course not quite as good as the smelly cheese) but super filling.  I got beef chili goulash and dumplings-I thought the dumplings would be a like what we have in the US but they actually looked like little slices of French bread- but still taste like dumplings. Very strange but good. 

Prague is such a beautiful city, I’m amazed every time I step outside.  All of the buildings are so gorgeous and elaborate with statue facades on the front and beautiful molding and painted all different pretty colors it’s really spectacular.  And they have trees and parks everywhere! It’s so nice to see that because it’s a big city, but it’s not removed from nature.  Everyone has dogs and they are so well behaved and go everywhere with their owner.  We were at a really cool bar on Thursday called Usutu and its an underground cellar bar so it’s like a labyrinth of caves, it was really awesome, and there was a guy there with his giant Rottweiler just chilling.  And people bring their dogs on the metro too.  Another awesome thing about Prague is beer is cheaper than water! No joke!  But that’s just a benefit because it’s such an awesome city.  There are statues everywhere and artwork of all sorts, you see really beautiful

old religious statues, and then you see something ridiculous and crazy.  I saw a really cool painting on a wall that was an infinity sign, but driving on it were military tanks followed by construction vehicles followed by military tanks and it goes on forever—symbolizing that as people build cities they get destroyed, then rehabilitated, then destroyed.  This really represents the Czech outlook on life.  Here they have this supremely beautiful city that just recently received freedom.  When Hitler invaded here he instructed his army not to destroy the city because he thought it was too beautiful, so luckily it is really well preserved.  But when they were under the rule of the Soviets, it was a dreary, miserable place.  All of the buildings were painted grey and people just weren’t allowed to be happy.  You can still see that today—the metros, while they are really clean and a super efficient means of public transportation are all drab and gray because they were built during the Soviet occupation.  And anyone over the age of 50 or 60 always a has a serious often expressionless look on their face and it seems as if they are just robotically wandering through life without experiencing it.  But those in their teens, 20s, even the 30s have this amazing zest for life and are super happy.  The city itself reflects this mixed attitude because in between the beautiful historic buildings you have the absurd (like Cheurnys stuff) but also that looming reminder of their very dark past.  It’s really an amazing experience here.  Every day I consider more and more staying here to teach because there is always something new to see and learn and experience every day.  I truly fall in love with the city more and more by the minute.  It really is just as magical as everyone said it was going to be!   

Classes start tomorrow. They are apparently super demanding and a lot of work, and I’ve been told by every grad that I won’t have a life Monday through Friday and all I’ll be doing is work.  So that’s going to be a load of fun.  But I’m really excited to start learning this stuff because I think it will teach me a whole lot about communication with people in general, as well as how to communicate and deal with people who don’t speak your language at all. 

That being said…time for bed!    

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wow, Prague is definitely my new favorite city.  It really is just as magical as everyone said it is.  It’s so beautiful and all of the buildings are so old and well preserved and it’s just awesome.     

I slept in wayyyy too long today, I felt like a lazy bum, but I guess I’m still jet-lagged, or at least that’s a good excuse.  I got up and my roommates and I got lunch at met up with some friends from a previous TEFL class who ended up staying in Prague to teach and they gave us a little tour of Prague.  First we went to the Astronomical Clock for the time change, which was super cool.  They have the 12 apostles appear through the doors, and there are also statues for the 7 deadly sins and a bunch of other symbolic decorations.  It’s really beautiful.     

Then we all went to this crazy gallery for this artist named David Ceurny.  He does these wack statues, paintings, and photographs that are nuts but really cool.  For example, there was this statue thing of Saadam Hussein tied up and submerged underwater in this aquarium thing.  It was really life like and kinda eerie.  There was also a giant palm tree made of Fanta and Sprite cans.  Then we went to the Charles Bridge which, as promised, was really packed and had a bunch of vendors selling way overpriced things but it is something you have to do when you go to Prague.  But it did have a really beautiful view of the river and the city so it’s all well and good.  After the bridge we went to the John Lennon wall (yayyy) which was

definitely the highlight of my afternoon.  It’s really spectacular and I definitely have to go back with some spray paint and put something on it. 

We then walked along the river and went to this park where there were some more David Ceurney statues.  Except these were a little creepy—they were these giant babies with their faces punched in.  Kinda messed up but art’s art I guess. 

Looking forward to the pub crawl tonight!     

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Made it! Got to our apartment and its HUGE! I’ve met my roommates and everyone seems super cool.  I went to a shopping center across from our school to get lunch and towels (couldn’t waste precious room in my suitcase with towels!) and try to find a place for the internet.  The metro system is pretty easy to use, but getting around trying to find various locations is pretty difficult.  The Czech language is far from French, or any romantic language at that, so trying to figure out signs, menus, etc is pretty difficult.  And surprisingly, people aren’t too friendly or ready to help out an ignorant tourist as myself.  I asked close to a dozen people where I could find an internet cafĂ© and most people just walked right by.  It also seems like most of the younger population speaks at least a little bit of English, but the majority of the older population speaks none at all.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how clean the city is.  It’s impeccable! When the cab driver was taking me to my apartment I saw a street sweeper vehicle going down the street—it was 11 am on a Wednesday! People don’t litter and everyone is responsible for their own trash.  I wish people practiced that in the U.S.

I’m really excited because there are flyers and posters everywhere for various music festivals/concerts/events etc.  I also saw a poster for a “pyrotechnics light laser show” which I’m sure will be quite a show. 

Well, I’m off to dinner/city exploring!

Zurich Airport

After racing from one terminal to the next in Atlanta with a carry-on that is at least 50 pounds (no wheels!) I finally made it to my flight, out of breath and very hot and sweaty!  I had less than 10 minutes before I had to board my plane, and used that time to make a few last minute phone calls to my friends and family. 

The flight was cake—I was on the side of the plane where there are only 2 seats and I totally lucked out because the seat next to me was empty! So I stretched out and slept the whole time- who needs business class when you’ve got karma?! I’ve definitely paid my fair share in transcontinental flights stuck in the middle of 2 fat strangers.  I woke up just as breakfast was being served and we landed within the hour. 

I just got off the plane in Zurich—or what I like to call the Madison Avenue of Airports.  Trying to find the correct terminal to Prague I pass Hermes, Armani, Gucci, Hugo Boss—its ridiculous!  Everyone here is so chic and dressed to the nines—and its only 7:30 am!  Then again there are also businessmen in the bar drinking, so clearly there’s a different lifestyle here.

About time to board the plane… I’m SO EXCITED!! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Charleston Airport

I am sitting in the Charleston Airport terminal waiting to board my flight to Atlanta.  It’s finally sinking in that I’m leaving.  I have been so busy with my internship and work, not to mention trying to make the most of my final days/weeks in Charleston that I haven’t even had time to get excited about this wonderful journey I am about to embark on.  But now that I’ve gotten through security and the only thing I have to wait on is boarding the plane I can think about the next two months ahead of me and I’m so stoked! I’m also a little anxious, and definitely nervous that I’ve packed wayyyyy too much (as always).

Time to board… this is really happening! I will really miss all my friends and family but I’m looking forward to the new friends I am going to make and exploring new cities!!

I’m new to this whole blog thing.  But I figured this would be the easiest way to not only document my travels for myself but also to keep everyone else who cares about what I’m doing updated as well.  I’m no wordsmith so I’m giving fair warning—I’m not aiming for entries revealing some eloquent insight to life (although if the inspiration arises, you may get lucky…). This is merely a narrative to my European adventure, so enjoy!!