Thursday, February 24, 2011

What really matters

When I left to come here in September, I was pretty sure I'd stay in Prague for at least two years.  I'm still thinking that, as I honestly cannot imagine leaving Prague this summer.  I have been thinking a lot lately about what I'll be doing next year.  Should I stay with my current company?  Should I try to work with adults?  Am I meant to be a teacher?

I was sick all last week and at home.  The Czechs have an interesting, and kinda nice, system that if you're sick, your doctor will send you home for a certain period of time.  I was told I had to take 6 days off.  This was a foreign concept (no pun intended) to me, as I'm used to taking maybe a day or two off and then getting back to work as you are starting to feel better.  However, since, I've basically been sick since October, I decided to go with it.  Well, it worked!  I feel all better now!

Being home game me a much needed break and helped me come back refreshed both physically and mentally.  Before the break, my patience was thin, I saw only the negative parts of my day - spending hours on public transportation, kids who didn't listen/misbehaved/didn't really want to be there, etc.  Every little thing set me off and I had no patience with anyone - including myself.  I even started looking into options to teach adults, as I figured they would be more invested and engaged in learning English and I wouldn't feel like I was wasting my time.

Then, I came back to work.  And while I have still had several students who literally groaned and said "noooo" when they saw me, most of the kids were happy to see me again.  In my classes today, when I said goodbye the kids asked for more.  Now, seriously, who are these kids?  It felt really good to be appreciated and liked.  While in the grand scheme of things, I don't really care if people like me or not.  However, lets be real, we all prefer to be liked!

I was able to see how far some of these kids have come in just the 5 months I've been here.  Some have had English before, and others are just starting.  Both groups have gotten smarter this year.  While, there have certainly been moments I've wanted to pull my hair out, my patience has been renewed.  I can see clearly why I'm here and the impact I am actually having.

While I'm not always one who knows "what's next" I do find it essential to have a purpose in my life and feel like I'm impacting someone or something.  As I said goodbye to one class, our typical end of class routine began.  They line up with their gigantic backpacks by the door and wait for everyone to be ready.  While they wait, I give them exploding fist pumps, and they LOVE it.  They literally fight over who gets to go next.  It kinda makes me feel like a rock star.  Then they start doing it with each other.  I realize this may be new to them or no one else really does this with them, so its our unique English time thing.  It's kinda cool.  Today as we did it, I thought to myself - they may not remember anything I teach them specifically - but I'm pretty sure they'll remember they had fun learning English.  And really, isn't that what matters?  Well, that and exploding fist pumps.  :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What are you thinking about?

I spend a fair bit of time on public transportation here traveling to the different schools I work at.  Some days it adds up to 2-3 hours.  It has its moments of interest.  It also has its moments of annoyance.  Generally, between reading the news, a book, listening to music, or simply watching the  people around me and the city, time goes quite quickly.

One of my favourite parts of Czech life is that no one speaks on public transportation.  Ok, let me re-state: mostly no one speaks on public transportation.  There are occasional groups of children or tourists who will be talking on the metro or tram.   However, generally, it is silent.  It's silent even during rush hour when people are literally packed into the metro like sardines.  And still, no one says a word.  Some people are reading the metro newspaper (a free daily newspaper found in all metros stations).  Some are reading something else.  Most just sit and look unhappy.  I'm not certain they are unhappy, but they don't look overly happy.

At first, this silence thing was really foreign to me.  Now, I notice when a group of people are talking.  Immediately, I think "they're not from here" or "must be kids."  Wow...I sound like an old lady!

During my first month in Prague, my good friend Gillian and I were on a tram exploring the city.  We were talking in normal voices about our days.  A man in front of me, turned around and kindly asked us to be quiet.  We of course were shocked by this at the time and did our best to stay quiet until we exited the tram.  It really wasn't a big deal, but it made us laugh of course.  We thought about riding the bus in San Francisco (my friend is from the Bay area) and how that would have NEVER happened.

For Christmas, I went to Germany.  I remember boarding the bus and immediately knowing who was German and who was Czech.  The Germans were talking and having a good time and the Czechs were just sitting silently.  I even recall thinking, "wow, would they  just shut up so i could sit in peace already?"  Clearly, I'm becoming a little Czech.

This morning - back to work after over a week off from being sick - packed like a sardine on the metro, the silence reminded me of all these wonderful moments.  I'm still dying to find out what everyone's thinking about...but clearly, I'll never ask!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Really hope that NEVER happens again!

Disclaimer:  This gets a little gross, which I'm sorry about.  However, it's essential for the telling of the story.  :)

Well, I have been sick basically for the past two weeks.  I found a new doctor this week (thanks to my new roommate who works for another company).  I wanted to find someone else after my last two visits to the cigarette smoking dude.  I saw the new doctor on Monday and he saw me for a total of 15 seconds.  I explained my problem (while he was on the phone to who knows who).  He asked a few quick questions and said I should do some blood work to see if there is a bacterial infection and to go home and rest.  Ok, easy enough.  

I had to go back on Tuesday for the blood work, as they are only open in the morning and my new doctor is only available in the afternoons.  So, Tuesday, I go for blood work.  I wasn't certain anyone would speak English, but I had my form (which said what needed to be done), my Czech phrasebook, and a smile.  I went in and the old lady who was working (seriously, she was at least 80) spoke a little English.  First she held a vial to me and shouted "URINE" at me.  She gave me a key and pointed to the bathroom.  I wouldn't have been surprised if I would have been required to just go right there.  I was grateful I didn't!  When I returned, she had me sit and with gestures, we figured out the blood drawing.  It was honestly the best blood draw I've ever had - no bruising (usually its not so easy on me).  So, it wasn't bad!

Today, I went back to my doctor.  He said there was no evidence of a bacterial infection.  He said he couldn't really do much and that I should just rest until I felt better.  I asked if there was anything else I could do, and he smugly replied, "Move to California.  This will be better when it warms up."  I almost told him I had lived in California last year, and really, I rarely was sick there!  But alas, that wasn't really an option at this point!  He then said I should go see the Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor upstairs to see if there was some other problem.  He gave her a quick call, and I was on my way.

Upstairs, I was greeted by the new doctor.  She had me wait a minute and then I went in.  She asked me what was going on and I explained it all.  She then had me hop into her exam chair to have a look.  So before does anything, she take two different metal rods out of a container and then dips them in two different solutions.  I figured she was cleaning them, but wasn't sure exactly what was going on.  Then she looks in my ears and says they look fine.  Then she grabs a tongue depressor and looks at my throat.  This makes me gag no matter what.  She seemed disgusted (by the way, bedside manner is not a popular concept here) that I couldn't handle it.  So, she grabbed one of these long metal tube things from her big machine near me.  As I saw them more closely, they looked like metal chopsticks!  

Ok, so they were probably smaller than this, but they felt way bigger!!!
Then, she made me stick out my tongue and shoved this metal thing down my throat, that I learned was for her to look through down my throat.  This absolutely made me gag and she just kept yelling "BREATHE!  BREATHE!"  Oh, thanks for the comfort!  After a few seconds (which felt like days) of that, she stopped.  At this point, my eyes are streaming tears though I'm not crying. Must have been a reaction to gagging.  Fun.

Then, she takes the other probe thing and shoves it in one nostril.  I could see it was going into my head but had no real clue what the hell was going on.  Having never experienced anything like this, I got a little freaked out.  The first nostril wasn't so bad.  Then she did the other side.  As she moved it around (eeeewwwwww!) she hit something and it hurt, so I moved my head.  This was not a good idea apparently, but it was a reaction!  This caused her to yell again "DON'T MOVE...STOP!"  Again, not overly comforting when someone has a metal thing shoved in your nose!  She stopped at that point and said everything looked typical for someone who had a bad cold.  Well, that's good I guess.  

She proceeded to write me a prescription for a strong decongestant and antihistamine, nose drops (yes I have to put drops in my nose, not as bad as the probes but not grand either), and a throat spray.  This is all supposed to help clear things up.  I have been sent home for the rest of the week and will go back to the doctor on Monday to see how things are going.  I'm sincerely hoping there will NOT be a repeat of those damn probe things!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Elmer Fudd returns!

So, it was a blustery day here in Prague.  While, it's nothing compared to the -26 F temps my friends in Wyoming are experiencing, it's cold for Prague!   The high today was about 18 F, but with the wind it felt much, much colder.  With these cold temps, the Elmer Fudd hats and other interesting head dressings returned to the streets of Prague.  I took all these today on my various means of transportation.  I was so happy to get such great pictures!  I'm getting sneaky with my camera phone....

I was reading and when I looked up, this person had appeared in front of me...heavenly!

Elmer Fudd on the tram

Another Elmer Fudd awaits the bus

My absolute favourite picture! Two old ladies riding the metro.
I love sunglasses the lady on the right is wearing.
This will be me someday...who's in?

A few random photos....

So, here are a few pictures that I love that I hadn't uploaded...
Fall colours outside my school near the Prague Castle

Sunset sky

Yep, we found a Peach Pit bar just 3 blocks from our flat.  Gotta love the 90210 decorations!  They even played the theme song to the show the night we were there!

I think I have about 100 versions of this picture. This was taken just this past weekend...proof that it truly NEVER gets old!

A spoon sculpture at the art museum we went to last weekend