Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What a day...

So, I'm sure you are all dying to hear how my interview went today, and I hate to keep you all on the edge of your seats...

The interview was fantastic, the women I interviewed with seemed to really like me, and basically offered me the job. It really would be ideal for me in many ways. The kids are adorable, of course. Today was a special day, which they have twice a month. This one was International Day, so each room was a different country, and the kids all had costumes to represent other countries and flags painted on their faces. I got a tour of the school, and I felt excited by the idea of working there...

BUT... (always the but)

I felt that they were a little vague on the visa issue. They did not seem very familiar with the process of obtaining a work permit, which made me uneasy. ALSO, the pay is not very much for the number of hours I would be working. There would be no option as to whether I would have to work on the side. They want me to work 25 hours a week, which is part-time, but when you consider that a full load for a teacher is typically 25 classroom hours, it doesn't leave a lot of time for side work. Also, when I did the math, I would be making only 5 dollars an hour after taxes, compared to a decent salary teaching at a language school which would be more than twice that amount.

SO, sadly, I think I will have to turn down this position. If I did not have to worry about things like immigration law and paying my rent, things would be different, but unfortunately...it's life.

So summary of the day: Great interview for a job I can't afford to take. Lots of travelling across Prague on metro and bus. Teaching in the afternoon went very well. I've still been improving with each lesson. THEN, an awesome surprise...

I received an email from one of the smaller language schools I'd applied to called "Tea Time". It looks like a very unique one, actually. The email was from the owner. She said that while they did not have many openings at the moment, she is personally looking for a native speaker to teach her 15 year old daughter. She asked me to interview with her for the position. She also said that hopefully more positions would open up soon in the school.

This is very exciting because for one thing it would be great to get a private student in the first place. This is how you can make the most money. Even better is to have the opportunity to teach the daughter of someone who is so experienced. It's flattering to be asked. It would give me the opportunity to demonstrate my reliability and character so that when more postions open at the school I will be a candidate.

Here's the website for the school, you can read about Jana (the owner who I will interview with), as well as see how the school is somewhat different than a typical language school... mainly that it is very personalized. The students choose their own teachers based on their various backgrounds and interests. This seems like it would be a great opportunity to get recommendations for more private students.

Website: About tea time

After class, I headed out to my new apartment to sign my lease and pay my deposit and rent for March, when I move in. I stayed for a while and chatted with Iva. I told her how when I met her the other night I felt very good about it like it was "right" and she said that she felt that way too. I think I made a good decision there.

Friday I was going to spend the morning observing class at the preschool and getting to know everyone, but now that I've decided I can't accept the job I will have to cancel. The job fair is the same morning, and since I don't have a job yet, I think I should be there. I have an interview in the afternoon with one of the larger language schools in Prague who I know for sure helps with visas. The catch is that they are interviewing everyone from our program who applied with them. I think they are hiring for several positions, but there are five of us who are interviewing...it sucks to be competing with friends for the same jobs.

I guess it's just a dog eat dog world here in Prague.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Almost done...

Just finished the first day of our last week of the course. It's a short week, too, so it will really fly by.

I have an interview in the morning at a bilingual Arts Preschool for a part-time position. I hope I get the job (as long as I am able to get a work permit from them, that is). The school holds lessons in English in the mornings and lessons in Czech in the afternoon. If I can land this job and they can provide me with a work permit, it would be an ideal situation because I would be able to have a set schedule of working there in the mornings, which would leave my schedule open in the afternoon and evenings. Since I would have a work permit through that job, I could pick up part time work at any language school regardless of whether or not they can offer a work permit. That way I could teach adults part time as well.

It would be the best of both worlds. I would get to spend time with little kids, which I love. I would be able to use my art background, which would make me happy. And, I would still get to use all of the skills I learned in my TEFL course to teach English to adults.

Hopefully, this is what happens. BUT if not, I have another interview on Friday with a language school who I know helps with visas. Also, the job fair is on Friday as well.

Still, wish me luck...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I'm so good at hunting

I got back from looking at the room a little bit ago.

As soon as I met Ivana, who will be my flatmate and who I'd been writing to online about the apartment, I felt very comfortable. The apartment is really cozy. It's very clean and everything is nice. I will have lots of room for storage in my room. One wall is all wardrobe space and another is all bookshelves. I have my own little balcony and window which my desk faces. My bed is really big, which will be nice. There is one other flatmate, a male. I met him just for a moment and he also seems very friendly. Both of my flatmates are Czech. Ivana's English is really good (she wanted an English speaking flatmate to brush up on her speaking skills). Hopefully I can coax her into helping me learn a little Czech as well.

I can move into the room on March 1st. Between the end of the course and when I can move into my new flat, I will stay at the hotel which works with my school. They are offering rooms for those who want to stay in Prague for a very cheap month's rent. The other girls who are going to stay in Prague will also be staying the month at the hotel, so we'll all be there together.

It feels so good to have accomplished one of the big things on my list.  After I got home, I cooked myself a nice dinner. A stir-fry with broccoli, onion, garlic, ginger and tofu. I found these really delicious tofu cutlets at Tesco the other day. I made dinner for Marissa Friday night and she really liked them too. She and Sasha both bought some today, so now our fridge is stuffed with tofu. :)

I'd really love to write more right now but unfortunately I need to work on school stuff. Those lesson plans aren't going to write themselves.

The hunt is on!

The job hunt and the apartment hunt, that is...

I had my first interview on Friday. The interview went fine but this school could not help me with a work permit (which I need for my visa). So, the hunt continues. I received another email today from an arts preschool inviting me for an interview. I responded with my availability and hope to hear back with a date tomorrow. I sent out a lot of CVs on Friday so hopefully I will hear from some of those schools over the next few days. Also, we have a job fair at our school later in the week where some language schools come to recruit. I have already been corresponding with one of them so hopefully I will have an interview there too.

Apartments - I looked at some flats yesterday owned by an Irish fellow I met. They are very nice and brand new but more for students as they are shared bedrooms. Today I looked at one in the afternoon. It was in a nice quiet part of Prague but a little dingy and depressing. I don't think that will be the one. Tonight I will be viewing another apartment. Its downside is it is a little bit far out (not sure how long it will take to get there yet) probably about 20 minutes to get to the center. The upside is that the woman I've been corresponding with, who would be one of my flatmates, is very nice and the apartment looks extremely clean and neat from the pictures. Also, I would have a king size bed and lots of storage space in my room, and all of the furniture looks very sleek (probably all from IKEA).

I need to head out to look at the flat, I'll try to write some more later and let everyone know if I like it or not!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nice, quiet weekend - Ready to begin the second half!

As promised, I'll write this time about our trip to the Jewish Quarters last weekend. First, a little background:

Jews have a rich history in Prague, having been in the area for over 1000 years. In fact, Prague was one of the most important Jewish centers in Europe for many centuries leading up to the Holocaust, after which much of the small portion of the country's Jewish population that survived chose to emigrate. It should be noted that although the Jews have a long and rich history in Prague, that history, as in Jewish communities the world over, is rife with persecution and inequality. World War II was certainly not the first time Jewish people were forced to live in ghettos, made to wear distinctive clothing, or expelled from large areas of Europe. Jews in Prague were forced to live in a ghetto as early as the 12th century. In 1389, almost the entire Jewish population of Prague was killed when the Jewish quarter was ransacked, pillaged and burnt (with support of the clergy). There were several times between 1500-1750 when Jews were expelled from Prague. Yet in the early 18th century, there were more Jews living in Prague than in any other city in the world. Despite such a rocky path, the Jewish people did make progress over time in regard to their rights. The ghetto was finally abolished in 1852, and became an official district of Prague. It is named Josefov, after Emperor Joseph II (1780-1790) who unlocked the gates to the ghetto and issued an Edict of Toleration, allowing the Jews to engage in commerce and culture.

Josefov, the Jewish Quarter, is now a big draw for tourists. It is especially notable because, unlike with other cities in Europe, where the Jewish areas were partially or completely destroyed during German occupation, Prague's Jewish Quarter was allowed to stand. Presumably this was because Hitler intended the area to be used in the future as a sort of museum of "an extinct race". My first thought was that it was surprising Hitler would have chosen a place so illustrative of the highly developed sense of beauty and culture of the Jews. Whatever the reason, it is fortunate for all of us that the Quarter survived the war. Today it features beautiful synagogues now housing museums of Jewish history and culture. The architecture in this part of the city is amazingly beautiful. I could spend many days wandering around this area. The exhibits inside the synagogues are also amazing, albeit sobering. The first one we went to had many ancient texts surviving from Jewish history in Prague. I love looking at really old books and manuscripts. The craftsmanship, and the amount of time it must have taken to hand letter entire volumes... it astounds me.

Our first stop

The second museum we walked through (Pinkas synagogue) was definitely the most sobering. It is a beautiful synagogue, empty except for the names of all of the Bohemian and Moravian Jews that died in the Holocaust, painstakingly hand-painted in tiny script with the birth and death dates. They cover the walls from floor to ceiling. During the communist occupation, this museum was partially destroyed, so all of the names had to be carefully repainted again a second time years later. It's so hard for us as people to picture what 80,000 looks like. This display helps to show us just how many it is. The hardest part is seeing the dates, when you see one that looks like this: (1937-1944) or (1940-1944). The really mind-boggling part is that 80,000 (the number of Bohemian and Moravian Jews killed) is only a fraction of the much larger number (6,000,000) killed during the Holocaust. I just did the math, and the number of names written on the walls of that synagogue, which seem to go on an on and on, represent only .013 percent of the total.

Sign outside of Pinkas Synagogue

As if that weren't enough to have you feeling a little sick inside, the most intense portion of the museum is upstairs, where there is an exhibition of artwork created by Jewish children in Terezin. Terezin (German name, Theresienstadt) is a garrison city in what is now the Czech Republic. It was built during the reign of Joseph II (mentioned above), but the Nazis took it over and turned it into a large ghetto and prison. If you've heard of the propaganda video where the Nazis painted a picture of concentration camps as "nice communities" for Jewish people (to combat international rumors of human rights abuse) this is where it was filmed. In fact, conditions in Terezin were nothing like what was portrayed in the film. 50,000-60,000 Jews were forced to live in barracks designed to hold 7,000 soldiers. Additionally the camp was often used as a temporary holding area; most of the prisoners who did not die in Terezin were sent on to death camps. Of the 15,000 children who were transported to Terezin, only 100 survived.

While the living conditions in Terezin were deplorable, people did what they had to do to survive, and in the ghetto, Jews were able to have a small amount of self-government. One of their biggest concerns (understandably) was the large number of children. How could they keep children from becoming depressed and despondent in such a depressing and desperate environment? They arranged secret lessons for the children. They designated "children's barracks" and tried to have all of the children live together. The Jewish community worked very hard to provide an environment for the children that would help them to find some hope and comfort. The children's artworks in the exhibition are products of some of these secret Terezin lessons. One of the teachers, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, when she was forced to leave Terezin to be killed at a death camp, buried suitcases filled with the children's art and writing (over 4,500 pieces). After the war, the suitcases were discovered and the contents are on display in Prague, at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and other places.

Next we walked through the Old Jewish Cemetery. Within its walls are buried possibly 100,000 people with headstones dating from as early as 1489. Because the Jews were not allowed to bury their dead outside of the ghetto, the dead were buried one on top of another, sometimes up to ten graves deep in a single plot. The tiny cemetery is literally stuffed with headstones, although the number that stand probably only represents about 12 percent of the actual burials located there. It is very beautiful. I took a lot of pictures here, because pictures are not allowed inside any of the museums. We had to pay a couple dollars for a ticket to take pictures in the cemetery, too. Unfortunately, I took so many pictures my camera went dead, so I didn't get to take any more after that.

The Old Jewish Cemetery

After the cemetery we had lunch at a restaurant nearby where I had my first goulash, in a bread bowl. Then we went to the Spanish Synagogue which was so ornate and beautiful inside. By the time we had walked around there, we were feeling pretty exhausted. We went to the last museum that our tickets paid for, and then headed out. I stopped at the grocery on my way back to get ginger because my stomach was upset. In fact I was not feeling very well by this time. Little did I know that I was infected with Bohemian Flu...

Eating goulash

Taken by Alex P. :)

Anyway, that's how our trip to Josefov went. It was very beautiful, though it was cold that day. I can't wait to stroll around the area in the spring. That's really the last sightseeing I've done; I've just been working a lot and resting a lot, trying to get healthy. It was a long week, but at the end I felt really proud of myself. In spite of not feeling physically well all week, I had managed to get all of my work done and more, to get good marks (I think my lesson Friday went quite well), and to finish the lesson plan for the job I want and feel really good about the result. I worked on that lesson plan until late Friday night and then got up at 7 am on Saturday and worked on it all morning. I sent it out in the early afternoon and then crashed into bed until early evening. It was so pleasant to wake up later feeling well enough to go out and to realize I am in Prague and I can just hop on the subway and go see the city.

Walking around at night, I thought this building was pretty.

Last night I wandered around Old Town for a bit. I splurged on a really long strand of beautiful red crystal beads. I had some yummy red coconut curry for dinner and then came home and started working on the first piece of jewelry I've made since I arrived in Prague. I made a long necklace with the red crystals I had purchased that evening, some beautiful green Czech glass pieces I'd found at the bead store, and some turquoise I threw in for fun. I finished it today and made a pair of earrings to match! I'm excited to wear it tomorrow, which will be the first day of the second half of the course! I'm sure it will be just as tough as the first two weeks, but I'm feeling so good about it. I feel like if I got through last week with flying colors, I can't have too much trouble making it through to the end. I'm hoping to hear back from a couple of schools this week and hopefully have a face-to-face interview soon.

My first jewelry made in Europe :)

I will keep everyone updated.

Hugs and kisses.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bohemian Flu

Sorry, all, that I haven't written for so many days. I was struck sometime Sunday by the Bohemian Flu. It is characterized by fever, headache, coughing, sore throat, and most notably waking up for nights in a row completely drenched in one's sweat. In other words, it's a nasty, ass-kicking sort of thing. It's been a challenging week.

In addition to attending classes, writing lesson plans, and teaching classes, I've also been applying for jobs, which means being asked to write extra lesson plans as part of the selection process. For instance, Tuesday night I was working on my lesson plan for class the next day when I received an email from a school I'd sent a resume to only a couple of hours before. They wanted me to write a detailed lesson plan covering some pages from a book they sent me, and they wanted it by the next day (it was already 5 pm). So after I finished my lesson plan for the actual class I had to teach the next day, I had to spend three more hours writing a lesson plan for a hypothetical class. I have a similar situation with another school I've applied to (although they have generously given me two days to prepare), so tomorrow night after I've finished teaching the lesson I've been working on all night tonight, I'll be writing another hypothetical demo lesson plan. Whew! Usually if I'm sick I try to just rest and not do anything, but obviously that's not an option in this situation. Like I said, it's been a challenging week.

All in all though, things are going very well. I love that the course is challenging, and I'm really glad I'm hearing back from schools and being asked to submit demo lessons (that means they at least liked my CV and cover letter). I taught again yesterday and this time I was evaluated, and I think it went pretty well. I just need to assert my authority a little more (I'm too nice) and watch my teacher language (sometimes I use language students may not have had yet, like 'would' and 'could'). These are things that will become much easier with practice but are difficult at first.

So there's a little update on where I'm at. I did have a nice day of sightseeing last weekend, but I'll have to write about that next time. For now, I am going to go to bed so I get a good night of sleep. I have class and then teach tomorrow, and he lesson plan I have to write afterward is for my top choice school I'm hoping to work for, so I'm going to work really hard to make it awesome.

Even though I'm not going to post about sightseeing yet, I still wanted to post at least one picture (this one was taken by Marissa, one of my flatmates). It's a beautiful sunny view of Prague. See Prague castle in the back:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

One week down, three to go!

I can't believe our first week of the course is already over. It really flew by.

I taught my first 45 minute solo lesson yesterday. I was afraid I would be nervous (I always seem to get really nervous when it comes down to actually getting up and speaking in front of people), but it was fine. I actually really enjoyed it! As long as you've prepared and planned your lesson well, there's nothing to be afraid of. Even if something goes awry, you can always go back to your plan and on to the next part. I was surprised how comfortable and confident I felt teaching.

In my spare time this week I made it to a local bead store and picked up some nice Czech glass beads. I can't wait to start designing with them! In the meantime, I'm really busy with the course and preparing to apply for jobs. I just finished my CV (resume) and cover letter and plan to send out my first round to schools here tomorrow. The plan is to send the CV and cover letter via email to my top schools, then follow up later in the week with phone calls and/or visits in person. I've gotten advice on which schools will help pay for my visa, so those are the ones I plan to focus on. Also, we will have a job fair at our school later in the course.

Today was a bit of a lazy day. I rested, read a little and decompressed from a hectic week. I've been having fun cooking meals for myself again. I was so busy at home before I left that I hadn't really cooked in quite some time! I purchased some really yummy mushrooms (the kind that look like chicken) from the market the other day, so for dinner last night I sautéed them with olive oil, garlic, soy sauce and spicy pepper and ate them over brown rice. It was so delicious I had the same thing for lunch today! I'm still marveling at the amount of delicious food I can buy for so little money. Especially baked goods... I bought a huge loaf of braided, lightly sweetened bread with cinnamon and slivered almonds the other day, and it cost only 7 kc (35 cents). I've been breaking off pieces of that for the last few days. There's also a nice little cafe by the metro on our way to class that has fancy pastries in the same price range.

In the morning we're all going to visit the Jewish Quarter of the city, which I've heard is beautiful. I'll try to make up for this post's lack of pictures by taking plenty tomorrow, which I'll be sure to post soon.

For now,

Dobrou noc (goodnight)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

First Lesson!

Things have been moving quickly around here. Sunday we had our group orientation in the afternoon. I ended up sleeping in beforehand so I didn't get to another museum, but for our orientation we went to Prague Castle and walked around and back down to Old Town Square. Prague Castle is the biggest castle in the world. I hadn't realized that I'd actually walked up to the castle the previous day in my wanderings; I had been right outside the gate. After the orientation we all went to a little pub and had a bite to eat. I shared an apple strudel with Alex P, which was divine. Our group is a really interesting mix of people. In addition to our group of US Citizens and Brits we also have an Australian, a Romanian, a Czech, a Canadian and a Finn. Sasha and I went to Tesco on the way home to pick up some more odds and ends we needed, then headed home to get a good night of sleep.

The group

St. Vitus Cathedral

Sasha, Mary Beth, me, and Marissa

Statues at the front gate

From the Charles Bridge

Monday was our first day of class. It was a long day. We started off with a survival Czech lesson, which served both to introduce us to some basic Czech and to give us the experience of being on the student side of a foreign language lesson. We spent the rest of the day talking about lesson planning and going over how to conduct a reading lesson. This came in handy because we were expected to teach our first lesson the very next day. We broke up into groups of two or three who would share a 45 minute lesson.

Today we actually taught our first lesson. There are several classes of adult students who come to our school to take inexpensive English lessons. They range from Elementary to Advanced in level. I am partnered with Sasha and Aiden, who is from Canada. Our class today was an Elementary level group. We were given the reading we were to cover in the class. We had composed our lesson plan and decided how to divide it up in class the previous day, and fine-tuned our parts that night. We had designed activities to get the students participating and talking. For our first class, it went very well. Our group was all women, and they were all friendly and having fun. We felt that the reading we had been assigned was a bit difficult for Elementary level learners, but I think we did a pretty good job of getting everyone to understand its meaning. Tomorrow we will teach a writing lesson. Today and tomorrow are meant to introduce us to teaching and help us become comfortable with being in front of the class, but we are not being evaluated yet. On Thursday and Friday, however, we will each be teaching a 45 minute class on our own and will be observed and evaluated.

We were done as soon as we finished teaching our class from 2:45-3:15 today, and I'm using the time to cook, blog, go over my part of tomorrow's lesson and work on my resume. I soaked some kidney beans overnight, and now I'm cooking them up with some brown rice. I'll be eating beans and rice with veggies and siracha sauce for the next few days. Yum.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

First Day in Prague

I arrived at the airport in Prague at 2pm yesterday. I had been worried about my checked bags arriving, and waited at the carousel nervously as many people claimed their bags. Eventually, there mine were, and what a relief it was. Customs was no problem. Nobody even asked me any questions or looked at any of my things except for my passport. As soon as I walked out of the baggage claim area, I spotted the booth for the cab company I was directed to go to. They had a sign up at the booth with my name on it. It couldn't have been easier. I took cash from the ATM to pay for my apartment and hopped in the cab. The driver took me to the Hotel Pivovar. This hotel is in the same building as the school where I'll be studying for the next month. In the lobby I met one of the students at the school and she gave me an orientation packet and rode with me in another cab to my apartment (or villa, really...it's a big house full of mostly students). The villa is very close to the school, a five or ten minute walk. It's very nice, I was surprised by how much room we have and very happy to learn that we have wireless internet.

Most of the students in my course (there are 19) had been corresponding for the last couple of weeks, so we had already planned on meeting for dinner at 6. Before dinner I set up my computer and got online and ended up having my first Skype conversation with my friend Jesse who lives in Stockholm, Sweden. Later I called John who didn't answer and my mom who did and was very excited to hear from me. Skype is great. I used it to call my mom's cell phone and talked to her for over 20 minutes which cost about 40 cents. I can definitely afford that.

I met one of my flatmates, Sasha, almost as soon as I got to the villa and another, Marissa, before we left for dinner. We joined a couple of the other girls who live in the villa and headed down to the Hotel Pivovar to meet the other students who were coming to eat with us. We went to a pizza place nearby and ate dinner and chatted. Everyone from the program that I've met so far has been been very friendly and fun. Some of us are American and some of us are English. There will also be an Australian and a native Czech joining us. After dinner I was extremely tired after traveling for so long with little sleep, so after dinner I came back and put my things away and after talking to mom on Skype I went to sleep.

Marissa's picture of the group at dinner

This morning I slept in a little, then got up and started the day with some Sun Salutations and a cup of tea. I got dressed and headed out to explore. First I wandered around aimlessly at a mall right by our metro stop. I was looking for the grocery store but I couldn't seem to find it. Then I ran into Marissa and Mary Beth from my program and we rode the subway to the city center together. They were going shopping since they had already been exploring the day before. I got off before them and came out of the subway and into the center of the old part of the city. First I went into a big mall right next to the subway and grabbed some food from a grocery for lunch. I ate lunch in a beautiful square. The buildings here are gorgeous, and the streets are narrow and winding with so much to explore.

While I was finishing my lunch, the bells at the church next to me started ringing, and trumpets were playing. I heard people cheering and people from all around started running over to the other side of the church. I thought maybe it was like the Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Munich or something. I followed the crowd over to the other side and looked around. The church has a beautiful clock, and there were men playing trumpets up in the tower high above. It took me a minute to realize what the commotion was: someone had just gotten married. I walked right next to the car that carried the couple. The bride looked beautiful.

I spent the day wandering through the streets. I crossed the Charles Bridge. I had coffee at a little cafe and read some of my book, which currently is The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  It's actually a coincidence that I ended up choosing a Czech author to start reading before my trip. I was looking through Jared's books and nothing was jumping out at me until I came across that book. I had always wanted to read it because I've heard it's a good book, but I've never read any Milan Kundera and didn't even remember that he was Czech until I had chosen it and laid down in bed to look through it. I love coincidences like that. It makes me feel like everything is in line.

In my wanderings I came across the MuMo which is a modern art museum and walked through their exhibition there. They currently have a show of Pavla Aubrechtova and Vladimir Gebauer, who are a married pair of Czech artists that came of age during the mid-70's when freedom of speech was very limited here. I really enjoyed the show. I can't wait to visit more of Prague's museums.

Later in the evening before I got on the subway to head back to the villa I stopped at the grocery store. I am happy that food is very inexpensive here. I was worried that produce would be more expensive, but I think it is about the same or less expensive and everything else is definitely less expensive. I got a lot of food and the bill was under $25. I think at home for the same items it would have been about $40-$45. When I got back to my apartment, I cooked up some pasta with fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes, olive oil and parmesan cheese. I made extra to take for lunch for the next couple of days. I'm planning on trying to cook for myself as much as possible, and I wanted to get off to a good start. It's been an awesome first day. Tomorrow we have the orientation for our program in the afternoon, and I might see about going to another museum beforehand. I've also got to do some research about the music scene here. But now to bed...

Cooking my first meal in the new digs

Friday, January 6, 2012

In transit

It is really hard to say goodbye. It's hard to say goodbye to friends. It's harder to say goodbye to brothers and fathers and boyfriends. It's even harder to say goodbye to grandmas and sisters and mothers. It's especially hard to say goodbye to a little baby who doesn't even know what goodbye means and won't even remember you the next time you see her.

But here I am. I'm in London, waiting to board my plane to Prague. I'm in that weird place where my body thinks it's the middle of the night but here it's 8:30 in the morning. It's been 14 hours since I left Columbus for Chicago.

As the plane took off for Chicago, I was looking out the window (thanks mom for giving those mean airline people hell so I could choose my seats) and thinking how rural land looks like a huge quilt, with patches of all different colors and textures. I'm not a quilter, but if I were I would want to make a quilt that looks like a view of farmland from the window of an airplane ascending.

I think I'm going to break down right now and buy a little luggage cart with the rest of my US dollars. They have one over in the duty free shop; it's just a little wheel thing that folds up. I love this vintage Samsonite suitcase I brought for a carry-on, but stuffed with all of my jewelry supplies and my laptop it is really heavy. I need some wheels! It's a great suitcase, though. One of the flight attendants on my flight even complimented me on it, and I'm sure she sees her share of bags! Plus it's bright orange, and this is my orange year. (Ava got me hooked on Louise Hay's Colors and Numbers book). I made an orange necklace for myself for this year. It has orange spinels and carnelian and an antique St. Christopher medal that's really cool. St. Christopher is the patron saint of travel. 

Waiting at Heathrow (see aforementioned necklace)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Down to the wire

First of all, here are some pictures of things I referred to in my last post but had not yet photographed.  First, my tattoo. My sister took these nice pictures for me:

I use a lot of antique botanical illustrations in my jewelry, and I wanted that look to carry over to the tattoo. I think Miller did a very good job of doing that. Also, here is a picture of all of the rings I've made... the two biggest ones have stones and glass from my Erie trip with Bianca.

So, on to what's happened in the last couple of days... I've been busy packing, organizing, last-minute shopping and errand running, and also saying goodbyes. I've said goodbye to a lot of friends. It was especially sad to pack up all of my things from Ava's (the jewelry store where I work) and say goodbye to everyone there. I'll miss them a lot. Yesterday I actually said a couple of hello's as well as goodbyes. My friend Chris Monday (check out his comix at flyingweevil.com) came to Lancaster with his daughter Mabel and I got to meet his friend Heather for the first time. We all went to our friends Sam and Andrew's house and met their new baby, Lena. She is almost a month old and is absolutely beautiful. When I got home later that night, I had another baby to play with because Shelley and David were back from Cleveland with Emma. They are going to stay until I leave on Thursday.

Goodbye to Ava, Binks, Amelia and Corinne

Goodbye to Tonya, Chloe and Stella

Goodbye to Sam, Andrew and Lena
I've surprised myself by being more organized and farther along with my packing than I thought I would be. I've got everything all packed up. All of my jewelry supplies and tools, all of my clothes, my documents, it's all ready to go. My bags are both under the weight limit with room to spare. All I have to do tomorrow is pack up my studio and organize things that I'm leaving here. The only thing I regret not having time to do is making handmade journals to take with me. I have some beautiful paper and bookbinding supplies, but I never had time to get to it. I'll cut my losses, though. I feel really good.

Today was a good day for photo-shoots. I wanted to get some good pictures with Emma, and Shelley was happy to oblige. She is such a talented photographer, and good with photoshop, too! Thanks sister!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The past three months, a brief overview

I know I’ve been a terrible blogger. I haven’t written a word in almost three months, and it hasn’t been for lack of things to write about. Hopefully that’s all about to change... I leave for Prague in a few days, and my goal is to keep a detailed record of my life there so that my friends and family feel like they know what I’m thinking and experiencing even if they can’t be there with me.

I suppose I should catch up by summarizing the past three months. A lot has happened. It went by so quickly. First of all, I accidentally fell in love. I wasn’t even looking for a date, let alone a relationship. I guess we don’t get to plan everything. Anyway, it’s been a huge blessing to spend the past few months with John. We’ve had lots of great dates and shared a lot of memories. We had a beautiful autumn this year, and it was so fun to introduce John to Ohio (he’d just moved here from Phoenix, AZ) and take him to my favorite places. 

John working on his motorcycle

One of our first dates

Pictures from a beautiful fall day at the Indian Mounds in Newark

John's kitty, Sid

I will miss this smile.

Another thing that I did over the past three months was get some tattoo work done. I had been wanting to do this for a long time, and knew I wanted to do it before I left. I got in touch with my friend Miller who I know from Athens but now works at Short North Tattoo in Columbus, and we talked about what I wanted to do. I brought a couple of pictures, and he drew up a sketch. We modified it slightly and then started working on it. It took 8 grueling hours, but I am pleased with how it turned out. It was a cover-up of an old tattoo I’d gotten 7 years ago. I hadn’t taken good care of it so it didn’t look very good and I had been wanting to modify it for quite some time. Thanks to Miller for great work and to John for being there for me every painful step of the way.

These are the pictures I used for inspiration
(I'll post a picture of the actual tattoo next time)

Another highlight of the past few months was a trip I took with Bianca to Lake Erie. We got a hot tip from  the stonecarving teacher at CAC about a spot on the lake where beach glass can be found. I suppose I should begin by explaining that Bianca is Ava’s sister. She has lived in England for over ten years, but she has made extensive visits a couple of times this year, so I’ve gotten to know her and pal around with her. She’s been taking the metal classes at CAC with me and working at the store since September. 

Anyway, we made the trip up to Erie, and had a great time beachcombing. I’ve decided that I’ve been greatly underrating the Great Lakes for all of these years. It was beautiful and full of treasures, and our only regret was that we hadn’t made it an overnight trip so we could have had more time on the beach. Although we didn’t find a lot of glass (I did find a few nice pieces), we found lots of gorgeous things. I’ve used pieces from our trip to make a couple of my first rings, and Bianca has used some of hers to make gifts for Ava and a beautiful pair of earrings she gave to me as a going away gift. She also purchased a mini drill press which she let me use to drill some of my other stones and glass pieces so I will be able to use them in future pieces.

Binky scoops up a treasure

My precious booty

The holidays were really special this year. Having a baby in the family makes everything so much more fun. It was also great having John to share the holidays with. We went to Shelley’s house in Indiana for Thanksgiving. The boys couldn’t be there, but we were able to Skype with them while we were all there. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was pretty much a huge blur. I was so busy with work and jewelry classes and volunteering and preparing for the trip and making Christmas presents (I made a lot of commissioned pieces in addition to things for the store and my own gifts for people).  I’ve also been trying to see all of my friends before I leave, although it’s really impossible to see everyone.

John's dad's Thanksgiving pie

Christmas this year was great. It was so good to have all of the family together. It doesn’t happen very often anymore, and it was really the first time we’d ALL been together, since Jared hadn’t even met Emma yet. I’m glad I got to be here for his first time meeting her and that we all got to spend Christmas together. We even got family portraits taken. Two days after Christmas Jared was on a plane heading for Melbourne, Australia. Shan returned to Madison a couple of days later. Shelley and David and Emma headed up to Cleveland on Christmas Day, but they will be coming back through for a few days so I’ll get to see them one last time before I go. One of the hardest parts of leaving like this is knowing how much I’ll miss with Emma. It’s so amazing how fast she changes and how many new things she can do every time I see her. I’ve been able to spend time with her a couple of times a month since she was born, but I guess I’ll have to get by with digital interactions for a while. At least my sister is an amazing photographer and keeps us all updated on Emma’s new tricks and milestones. Sigh...

Emma and I

The whole family