Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Moving Day(s)

It's finally time to move from the apartment I've been in for the last two months to my new apartment, where I will be able to get settled in and stay a while. I will be working on moving over the next couple of days. I'm looking forward to the being moved in part, but I never look forward to moving. It's always a pain. Luckily, I haven't amassed too much stuff here yet, so it shouldn't take too many trips on the bus to transport all of my belongings to the new flat. My new place is only one bus stop away, which also makes moving simpler. The only difficult part is the enormous hill I have to climb to get to my current apartment - it won't be fun running up and down that with a big suitcase. On the bright side, after I finish moving I will never have to climb that hill again!

This has been an eventful week even though it is only halfway over. I had my first class with Anezka last night, which was fun. Her English level is much higher than I thought it would be, and she is very smart! She wants to work on preparing for the Cambridge First Certificate, so I have acquired some books and materials on that exam for our future lessons. Today I signed my temporary contract with Wattsenglish (I can't sign an official one until my visa goes through). Then I observed/co-taught some more classes with their senior teacher, Suzanne. Suzanne is from Wisconsin, and is really awesome. We met another one of the Watts teachers, Stephanie, at a cafe for lunch. All of the people I've met who work at Wattsenglish so far are great.

In the evening, I had an interview and demonstration lesson for another private student, Alice. She is six years old. Her father is a University Professor of Economics, and he has the opportunity to travel a lot to teach or do research. The family lived in California for two years while Alice was in kindergarten, so she can already speak English. Her mother is interested in improving her reading skills and pronunciation, and also having art classes - perfect for me! Our lesson went really well tonight - we read a fairytale and then made origami related to the subject of the story. Alice really liked me, and when I said I would come back next Wednesday, she said "Sooner, Sooner! I want you to come as much as you can!"

Another thing I did today was file with the IRS for an EIN number (Employer Identification Number). I also applied for a business checking account. If I want to get serious about selling jewelry, I need to do it right. I picked up some beautiful handmade papers at a craft store to use as backgrounds for pictures. I am looking for a few more props, then I plan to have a photo-shoot of the jewelry I already have made. Marissa has generously offered to let me borrow her camera to take pictures. It's a lot of work, but hopefully I will be able to make a little bit of money selling on Etsy. I'll be sure to post a link to my store once I have it set up. For now, I am going to sleep. It has been a long day!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Taking pictures of myself again 
A quick note:

Just booked train tickets for a trip to Vienna the weekend after next with Marissa. First trip out of the country, yay!!!! Also, it's a warm, sunny day in Prague, and we just ate at the best Mexican restaurant in the city. Yum.

Las quesadillas mixtas!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Feeling much better

I've been feeling much better since I finalized things with Wattsenglish. I will not start working full-time for the school until July. The Wattsenglish franchise in the suburbs wants to hire someone who will stay at their location all next year (understandably), and I would rather be in Prague. Until then I will cover classes as needed, and I will have the next few months to build up some of my own private students. Also, it will allow me to work at a summer camp in Milan in June that I was hoping to fit in.

Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities for teaching as long as you are figuring out the details of your visa. I met with Jana yesterday, and I will begin teaching her daughter Anezka next week. I created a sample lesson that Jana really liked, and I will actually use it as my first lesson with Anezka. I found a lesson from a textbook that focused on a painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge. I knew from Jana that her daughter is interested in dance, so I start the lesson with a clip from the movie Moulin Rouge. Then we cover some grammar and talk about the painting and about the artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. I didn't realize that her daughter is also a painter until our meeting yesterday, so the lesson ended up being very appropriate for her. She will meet with me for an hour each Tuesday before her painting lesson. I am excited to meet her. Also, I met my landlords on Saturday. They are very nice people, and they have three sons who they would like English lessons for. Already up to 4 students, it seems!

I taught some cover classes this week for Watts, and they went really well. I taught at a kindergarten on Monday, and the kids were so cute! I taught 4 classes of children from ages 3-6. After my last class (3-4 year olds), they all came up and hugged me around my knees. So freaking adorable. On Tuesday I taught at a primary school, and that was really fun too. I love it when kids draw me pictures. Here are a couple I've gotten so far:

Tomorrow morning I am going to be a judge for an English Conversation Competition taking place at one of the schools Watts teaches for. I will be one of 8 judges for the competition. We meet tomorrow and again next month for the finals. The kids we will be judging tomorrow (there are 45 children) are the winners from one of Prague's regions, and next month when we meet again we will judge the winners for the whole city. I am excited to be part of it, it sounds like a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, I've been following my Colors & Numbers book again. It's fun, and it's helpful since I don't have a regular schedule at the moment to have something that provides a sort of rhythm to the days. Yesterday was my "purple" day. Here is the information for the day:

This helped me out a lot yesterday, it was the kind of thing I needed. While I don't usually read scriptures, I took the advice in the book and looked up Matthew 6 online. I really fit my current struggles, especially the last part: 

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

That last line says it all, really :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sorry to keep you waiting...

The last two weeks were very stressful. There were a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of uncertainty. I couldn't bring myself to write about it on here because it would have forced me to think even more about how stressful everything was. I think I was handling it pretty well, but I was definitely feeling off. I'm glad I won't have to go through that two weeks again. That being said, everything seems to be in order, and lots of things have happened. The week before last I observed classes with a school that teaches young learners, Wattsenglish. I loved the classes, and I felt like this would be a perfect job for me; I love working with children, and the staff of the school is very young and laid back. Most of the other teachers are American.

The same week I observed the classes, I had an interview at an enormous corporate language school. I did a demo lesson, and they offered me the job. It was Friday afternoon, and they wanted me to begin teaching on Monday. I would sign the contract at 8:30 AM on Monday and have my first class directly afterward. I was quickly approached by several course directors (quickly meaning they were all obviously in a hurry) who handed me business cards and piles of paperwork about the classes. I would be teaching at large corporations around Prague. My first classes were to be at Pepsi Cola and Kraft Foods. I was also informed that I had arrived at an odd time, as the teacher's resource area would be closed for renovation (during my first week of classes), and I would not have access to the library (which I would need to plan lessons and choose textbooks). I felt really overwhelmed and exhausted after the barrage of information, seeming lack of organization and complete nonexistence of an orientation or training. I had also heard not so great things about the school, but I felt pressured to accept the job because I know I need to start working on my visa and not all schools will help with it.

I was extremely exhausted after the interview on Friday. Meanwhile, I was still scheduled to cover some classes for Wattsenglish in the coming week. I knew they had offered a job to one of my fellow TEFL graduates, but I heard there was another possible position in a suburb. The night after my interview with the huge school, I could not sleep. I couldn't shake the feeling that I would be miserable working for this company. I was awake for most of the night, and early in the morning I determined that I would write to Wattsenglish and explain my situation - that I really wanted to work for them, that I knew I would be happy there, but that I was pressured by a looming deadline - Monday morning at 8:30 AM I would have to sign a contract with the other school. I was fervent and decisive in my email. I wanted this job, and I would hard-sell myself if that's what was necessary, but I needed an answer before Monday morning. It's something that puts me out of my comfort zone, but luckily it worked. I have started my visa process with Wattsenglish. I will definitely teach for them in Prague beginning in the summer, but I will work in a suburb for the next four months (a bit of a commute, but our travel expenses are covered).

This week I taught my first classes for the school. It's really fun but you never know what to expect. Some classes are very well behaved, but some are exactly the opposite. The very first class I taught was a group of four, three boys and a girl, 6-7 years old. They were hellions. The kids know that when they have a cover teacher, they can get away with a lot. They know I don't speak Czech, and they know that they will never have to see me again. They also know that even if I wanted to report them to their regular teachers, I can't. I can't speak or write in their language. If they want to misbehave, you are at their mercy. Despite the hazards, I love teaching. When I have my own classes that I see regularly, I can develop ways to deal with difficult children. It's just hard when you're filling in for someone else and don't know the kids at all. Plus, most classes are much better than the first one I had. Most of the kids are really good, and even when they aren't it's an adventure.

What else has happened?

We had a big snow one day, it was actually the day I was observing with Wattsenglish. It was the most snow Prague has seen so far this winter (not really that much, but it was very pretty).

I've spent many hours wandering the streets of Prague, sometimes sightseeing and sometimes searching for things (government offices, schools, a place to buy lightbulbs). A pretty good rule of thumb to follow when you're trying to accomplish anything in a foreign country with an extremely difficult language is to take the amount of time you think it will take and multiply it by ten. Also expect to receive plenty of dirty looks and impatience from government workers (and many other workers, for that matter). I also have a theory about how Europeans stay so thin... they have to go to a million different shops to procure basic items. Silly of me to think I could buy lightbulbs or ibuprofen at a supermarket. Seriously, though...walking and walking and walking is a part of life here. It's a totally different lifestyle than we have in the United States. When I was planning to move to Prague I was concerned about how to get exercise. Regular exercise is necessary for me (I get depressed and tired when I don't get enough), but I wasn't sure I would be able to afford a gym membership. Luckily, I don't even need one. I spend hours a day walking, and it's great. I have a few pretty pictures from a walk along the Vtalva (the main river that runs through Prague) earlier this week.

I also found a pretty church Wednesday during my wanderings. Prague is full of beautiful buildings, but this one stood out enough to warrant a photoshoot. It was kind of a gray day and the church was really backlit, so you can really just see the outline, but I like the picture anyway. It looks very moody. I took this picture while I was on a quest to find a journal. I had been very stressed out for the last couple of weeks, as I have already mentioned. I normally keep a journal, but since I started the blog I hadn't been using one. When I was walking around on Wednesday thinking about how I had been feeling so stressed out and how I wanted to write on my blog but I couldn't seem to, I realized I desperately needed a journal. Sometimes there are things I'm feeling and things that are going on that I don't necessarily want to write about on here. Hopefully, now that I'm writing those things in my journal, organizing my thoughts and feelings better and alleviating some of my stress, I won't have another period where I feel like I can't write on here. I know you all were wondering what was happening with me, and I apologize for my silence.

Life is good. It has been hard this past couple of weeks, but it's only proving to me more and more how this is something that I needed to do. I have been learning so much about myself since I got here. It's surviving those moments of uncertainty, insecurity and frustration that help me to gain confidence and become more sure of who I am. Starting from scratch, going somewhere that I don't know anyone, where my future is so uncertain... it's a crazy adventure, and I'm loving it - ups, downs, and all. The best coping mechanism is always a sense of humor. Yesterday Marissa and I wandered around Prague for hours trying to find a post office I had been to only days before, laughing at ourselves the whole time. I'm not the only one who has had a stressful couple of weeks, and it helps to laugh at our misadventures. And when we get tired laughing at ourselves, there are plenty of other things to laugh at. Take this for instance:

Yes, this woman is pushing a baby stroller, but in lieu of an actual baby, she has a poodle. The poodle is dressed warmly in a parka and wrapped in a blanket. As we ride the metro, she shares her lunch with her 'baby'. The mental picture I conjure of this woman shopping for a stroller for her dog is both hilarious and depressing. I would like to thank her for adding humor to my life.

Another cool thing that I've seen is the Young Artist's Museum. It's in old town, and it is housed in the old Czech Ceremonial Palace. The building is so interesting... it was obviously once extremely fancy and beautiful, but during the years of Communist occupation it fell into disrepair, and there were many changes that were made to it. The changes were made in the name of pure function, without any regard for the beauty or cultural integrity of the building. So, all of the parquet floors were ripped up and replaced with cheap linoleum. If function required, partitions were built and walls knocked down. The walls, which are covered with fancy fabric treatments rather than wallpaper, are now stained and ripped. Wiring and electrical outlets were added in random places. Many of the rooms have old chandeliers and gilt molding, which is now dirty and damaged. Rather than restore the building to its former glory, the museum has kept it in its current condition as a reminder of the recent history of the city. It makes for a really interesting space for displaying the artwork, which is pretty bizarre and avant garde. There are a lot of weird installations, and the setting adds something to it.

Next week I will finally meet with Jana, the owner of the language school who is interviewing me to teach her 15 year old daughter. Last week she was on holiday, and this week we couldn't come up with a good time when we could both meet. She has asked me to prepare a sample lesson plan. I hope I get the job. It would be exciting to have my first private student! Also, I will be moving into my new apartment soon. I am meeting with the owners of the flat in the morning so we can sign an accommodation document I need for my visa. I am excited to get settled into my new place, and to get to know my new flatmates better. I also found a jewelry studio in Prague that offers many classes, and I emailed the owner to see if I might be able to work on my jewelry there. She said she would be happy if I wanted to, and we can set up a time when I can come to see the studio. Hopefully once I am settled into my new flat I can get my Etsy site started and begin selling some jewelry online. I'm sure I will meet people at the studio that will give me some insider information on where to find the best beads and materials here as well.

So that's a brief overview of the past couple of weeks. I won't be absent for so long again, and will be sure to keep updating on future developments. For now, Na shledanou (Goodbye) : ).

Monday, February 6, 2012

It will be a cold, long week...

I would be a big, fat liar if I said I wasn't nervous right now.

This week is going to be stressful. There are the countless job applications, the endless interviews, and worst of all, the waiting. This morning I had an interview with one of the larger language schools. The interview was fine but I don't know anything yet, I have to go back again. Also, the woman who interviewed me was telling me they want their full time teachers to get business licenses now rather than working visas. The business license requires a ton more paperwork and is more expensive; I really don't want to get one at this point. This made the job seem much less desirable. While I was in that interview I got a phone call from another school that had representatives at our job fair and set up a Skype interview for tomorrow. Originally I had an interview scheduled for 9:30 AM, but I cancelled it... it was out in BFE and the school is so small it's in a house. I seriously doubt they assist with visas.

The school I'm interviewing with on Skype tomorrow also wants us to attend a teacher training for most of the day on Wednesday and observe classes on either Thursday or Friday. (By us I mean myself and all of my fellow TEFL graduates... we are once again all interviewing for the same position). While this seems a little demanding for a job we don't even know if we will get, I'm actually happy for it. I want to have something to occupy my time so that I don't spend it stressing out about whether or not I will get the other jobs I've applied to. After I spoke to the school on the phone today I decided to locate their offices so I would know where to go on Wednesday. It sort of took me forever. I probably walked 15 miles today, and it is freaking COLD. Bone-chilling cold. Way too cold for sightseeing cold.

The other night Sasha, Aiden and I tried to go out for a while to see some things, but after about 10 minutes of walking down by the river we had to call it quits. My face was so cold my jaw started freezing and it was hard to talk. Still, we did see a few things. Actually, I saw something that was really super cool. You won't be able to see the effect at all from the picture, but while we were walking around I looked up and saw that in the top window of a beautiful old building there was a perfect, lit-up replica of the moon. It was so pretty, it looked just like the moon looks in the sky on a really clear night except it was in the window of the building.

That's the moon in the window

Today, after I walked all over Prague for hours in the cold (I'm getting to know the city better, on the plus side),  I was starving and frozen. I had noticed a little cafe with internet by the place I had interviewed earlier in the day, so I decided to go back to check it out. I wanted to warm up and have something nice to eat. It turns out the place is a confectionary, but they also have sandwiches. I got a hot cup of tea and a really delicious sandwich with turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and fresh pickled cucumbers, all grilled on a baguette. It was probably a foot long. The desserts looked so good I had to try one. I ordered crepes with raspberry filling, melted chocolate drizzled on top, and whipped cream. So good. All this homemade goodness and what was the bill? Less than 5 dollars. I will be back.

I want to eat this every day

Thanks to all my family and friends for sending me love and support. Especially my mom, who sent me the nicest email this morning. I love you all. 

Now keep it up, it's gonna be a long week...  :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Out on the town...

Firstly, both the job fair and my interview went very well yesterday. I think I expressed myself well during the interview, which consisted of two parts - a general interview and a second part focusing on methodology questions. The school (IJV, an acronym for something much longer and harder to say in Czech) is located on Wenceslas Square, right in the center. I got there really early so I had a lot of time to wander around. Now that the course is finished, it's really sinking in that this will be my home for the next couple of years. I love to simply wander, seeing what I find. My favorite thing yesterday was a door I found tucked in a hallway of Lucerna shopping mall, a giant labyrinth of shops, restaurants and clubs. It is all in one building, but it has many hallways, and the hallways are left open to the air so it is only semi-enclosed. IJV is in the Lucerna complex.

The door I found

After my interview I ran around Prague looking for something very specific - a folder or binder large enough to fit my University diploma into. It sounds like it wouldn't be that hard, but for some reason OU issues unusually large diplomas, so I had to run around to several different places to locate something suitable. I was so excited when I found it! I need to take the diploma with me to some of my interviews, and I don't want it to get all beat up.

Later, I added another diploma to the folder - my TEFL diploma! At around 6:30 everyone from the course met at the school to receive our diplomas and celebrate together and with the staff. It was really fun. A few of the girls had come up with nicknames for each person in the class, which they "presented" us with...extremely silly. Some examples: The Czech Casanova - our native Czech, Michal. Dame Ginger - Lorna, who is very classy and has long red hair. Spongebob Sex Pants - Darryl, who likes to wear his Spongebob pajamas underneath his trousers to combat the cold (which we can all agree is quite sexy). My nickname is The Bohemian Beader, for obvious reasons.

Our class

Marissa and I

Sasha, myself, and Michal "The Czech Casanova" Severa

It's sad because many of the people from the course are leaving or have already left - Leann, one of my flatmates, left early this morning for Fiji by way of England. Alex H. and Kerre left for Finland this morning. Steluta also left today. Tahnee is leaving for Australia by way of Germany and France (actually I said goodbye to her one second ago). Most of the British folks will be leaving after the weekend.

It is a testament to how much I love these people that I agreed to go out to the clubs after we received our diplomas last night. We first went to a place called Deja Vu, then to a place back at Lucerna (the complex I'd been wandering around earlier in the day). The second place was an 80s music dance club; they had ridiculous 80s music videos playing on huge screens to accompany the songs. For those of you that know me, you may know that I fear dancing. It is a rare occasion when I decide to do it (although I usually have a good time when I do). Since it was a special occasion, and I'm all about facing and conquering my fears these days, I spent a lot of time being silly on the dance floor last night. I had a really good time. I always surprise myself by what I can do sober and still have fun. When I was drinking I thought nothing could ever be fun if drinking wasn't involved, and if I was afraid of something I would just drink a bit extra to give me the courage - which usually ended badly. Now I do some of the things I used to get nervous about and find that I actually enjoy them. I can't say I'll be going to any clubs again any time soon, but I'm really glad I got to spend time with everyone on our last night as a group.

The downside to going out in Prague is the lack of smoking bans. I've gotten so used to being able to go out to a show and not worry about smelling horrible the next day. Not so in Prague - everything I was wearing last night smells awful. My hair smells, my coat smells, and I had to put all of my clothes including scarves in the wash. Right now my coat is out on the balcony airing out... I put it out there when I got home last night, but I just smelled it again 10 minutes ago and it still smelled like an ashtray so I gave it a hefty coating of perfume and put it back out there again. Ick.

The only thing I really have to do this weekend is look over the lesson plan I wrote for one of my job applications. On Monday I'll be demonstrating part of the lesson during my interview. I'm hoping that I'll get a job either with the place I interviewed yesterday (I will know by this Friday) or with the place I'm interviewing on Monday. Both are large reputable language schools that help with the visa process. For now, I'm going to be lazy for a while.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

And, done!

Just a quick note to say that today was the last day of my course (for all intents and purposes). Half of the class still has to teach tomorrow but I had my last lesson this afternoon. It went well. The grammar test we had to take this morning went just OK, but all in all I think I did quite well during the course. At least well enough to pass, as we don't exactly get graded. I'll receive my TEFL certificate tomorrow evening.

Tomorrow morning we have the job fair, and in the afternoon I have an interview. I went through a lot of trouble to make a nice colorful CV (resume), and I wanted to have nice copies of it for the job fair and for my interviews (I have another on Monday). After class tonight I went to the copy place in the mall by where I live. I wanted to print the CV but I could not communicate with the person working there... she wouldn't even let me try. She just said "No English, Czech" and looked annoyed (even though I hadn't said a word to her yet).

Next I asked a friend if she knew where I could print something in color. She said she thought I could go to an internet cafe she knew of where the guy speaks English. I went to the cafe, but once there I found out that I would only be able to get black and white copies. I asked him if he knew of anywhere around that I could print something in color from my email, but this seemed to be a far more difficult prospect than I expected.

As an aside, I have been seeing ads in the metro for printers, and they always seem to be quite cheap. Since I will soon be teaching all over the city, and since I also need a printer for my jewelry, I had already planned on purchasing one.

Flash forward to now, plodding around Prague in single digit temperatures, searching for a way to print a simple document. The printer is sounding better and better. I resolve to go to Tesco and see what price range they had for printers. I got to Tesco twenty minutes before they closed and quickly browsed the printer selection, most of which were, happily, under $100. After comparing several Canon models I decided on one (they only had one left, and I got it). A good deal, I think, at $70 with the ink cartridges included. I came home and set it up. God bless Macs for being so awesome. The printer came with two different discs and long instructions on how to install the software (which was outdated for my operating system). Luckily all I had to do was plug in the USB cord and my computer automatically asked me if I wanted to search for and download the necessary software from the internet. 8 minutes later, I'm printing off resumes. Life is good.