Friday, March 30, 2012

Best week in Europe so far...

I have to say that the past week was the best I've had since I left home. It was nice to have a steady schedule for the week, something I haven't had since I finished the TEFL program in January. The work hours were nice - 8-2 each day, so we still had some afternoon left after we finished teaching. The weather was really nice on Wednesday, and after classes I found a park and took a nap in the sun along with lots of other people who were stretched out on the grass doing the same.

Teaching this week was challenging but I had so much fun with the kids - especially my group. I wish I could be their regular teacher! We spent a lot of time working on their skit, and everyone got really into it. It was a great time. Today was a crazy day; we needed to rehearse but we kept having to move from room to room each period as we kept being chased out by the regular classes. It was chaotic but it was great in the end, watching all of the classes perform their acts. Since our project was all about modeling, there were plenty of pictures taken. I made a slideshow of some of the pictures to play during the "show". I'm glad I have a lot of pictures to remember the week, and a few to share with all of you.

I was really nervous before the week started that I would struggle or that I didn't have enough experience, but it turned out to be very similar to the work I'm doing in Prague. I picked up lots of good ideas and new games to play, and also gained confidence as a teacher. One really funny part about the week was that for some reason, all of the kids except for the ones in my group became convinced that I actually knew German and was pretending I didn't. I've no idea how this rumor began but it was very amusing. They kept "testing me", thinking they'd be able to get me to slip up and give away my secret German abilities. Sometimes they would say something that I could understand because it is similar in English or something, and they'd say - "SEE! She knows German, she understood!"

Here are some pictures from the week -

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Vienna, again!

So I'm back in Vienna. I love this city. I wish I could stay here forever. Right now I am at Cafe Hawelka, which Marissa and I tried to visit on our last day but couldn't locate. I had a cheese strudel and coffee, and I'm about to go and investigate a bead store I've found on the internet.

I really like the school I'm teaching in this week. The kids are all about 14 years old and they are very smart and nice. This is how the program works: I am part of a four-person team of English teachers. There is one Irish man who lives in Budapest and is the head teacher for the week.  There is a guy who was born in Chicago to Hungarian parents and who was living in Budapest for a long time and has recently relocated to Oxford, England. There is one guy who is also from Chicago but was married to an Austrian woman and has lived in Vienna for seven years. The three of us who are here from out of town are put up in a hotel for the week, which is pretty nice.

For the week, each of the four teachers has their own group. We teach our own group for the first three lessons each day, then for the last three lessons we switch and teach one of the other teachers' groups. The theme of the lessons is American or British culture. My group is my favorite. On Friday all of the groups will be doing presentations (a skit of some kind), to which the parents will be invited. We have the rest of the week to prepare the kids for it. Today, my kids decided they want to do an episode of America's Next Top Model. I have a couple of pop songs to download for tomorrow so that we can begin planning the skit. It should end up being really funny, I think, and the kids are excited about it. I'll plan on taking some pictures of the show :).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Vienna (Day Four)

Our last day in Vienna was a short one, and the weather was not great as it had been on Friday and Saturday. We got up really early, ate breakfast and headed to the center along with two other girls from our hostel room. I had a little map I'd copied from the internet, and we followed it to the chapel where the Vienna Boys' Choir sings at mass every Sunday. You can purchase tickets, but there is also standing room at the back of the chapel, and if you show up early and get in line, it's free. When we arrived at 8:30 there was already a long line at the door. We waited for about 45 minutes before the mass started and we were allowed to go inside. Marissa pointed out as we were waiting that almost all of the people waiting were Asian - I looked around and realized she was right. When the mass began, we realized why - that day was the one year anniversary of the earthquakes in Japan, and it was a special mass to remember those who were killed or wounded in the disaster. I'm glad we got to see the Boys' Choir, it was really lovely.

The line

After the service, we took a tram to the Belvedere, a palace/art museum which houses the Habsburgs' personal collection of art work. We had lunch in a little Greek restaurant, then toured the museum. The Belvedere has a large collection of art from various historical periods. I really liked the medieval art in their collection. Also, I got to see Klimt's The Kiss in person, which was very cool - I've used the image in my jewelry several times, so it's awesome to actually see the original. We spent a couple of hours at the Belvedere, then had to head back to the hostel and get our bags. By the time we got on the train headed back to Prague, we were exhausted. We covered a lot of ground in four days. I was proud of us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vienna (Day Three)

As I begin writing, I have just booked my trip back to Vienna - I will be arriving on Sunday evening. I'll teach during the week and will be staying in a hotel with other teachers from the program. I will also spend most of the day on Saturday in Vienna. I will definitely be going back to the Naschmarkt. The Naschmarkt is a huge and famous market in Vienna, where you can find every kind of food you might have a need for, as well as many oddities, collectibles, and plenty of photo-ops. We went to the market on Saturday, which is the best day. The market begins with many food stalls and vendors, and gradually morphs into a huge flea market as you make your way to the other end. There are so many exotic and delicious foods to choose from. Because we went to Naschmarkt at the beginning of a day of sightseeing, and also had no access to a refrigerator, we were limited in the types of things we could buy. I bought some crystallized ginger, dried strawberries and some cayenne pepper, which I cannot find in the CR.

It was very sunny that day, and the only sunglasses I have are prescription. I hadn't purchased a new pair since I started wearing contacts again. So, I found a cute pair of sunglasses - I had to find a deal, though. The first guy I talked to was going to charge me 10 €, but I found another place where I bought the same pair for 5 €. Marissa and I also found a stall with really cheap, cute scarves, and we each got one. Also, I found some beads here! I haggled with a guy at one of the booths and bought some labradorite and citrine.
One of the best parts about the market is looking at all the old stuff people have for sale. Some of it is truly ancient. There are all kinds of antiques - books, photographs, personal items, decorations, coins, jewelry - the list goes on. It would be no problem to spend an entire day here, poking through the many boxes and bins filled with odds and ends. And guess who will be back here two Saturdays from now? Don't mind if I do!!

Still not sure about this guy - he definitely had the steampunk thing going on,
but I've no idea what he's carrying here.

Next on our agenda for the day was visiting the StaatOper, which had been closed the day before by the time we made it over. On our way back through the market, we got falafel wraps - they were so delicious! We both ordered ours spicy.

After walking around the Naschmarkt for a few hours, we headed over to the StaatsOper, where we had attempted to get in the previous afternoon. This time, we knew what time to arrive, so we were there in time to take a tour of the building. The tour was nice, but after all of the over-the-top beauty of many of Vienna's buildings, the Opera House was a little disappointing. It was hit heavily by bombs during World War II so much of it is modern - which, of course, means not as interesting. The older parts that survived the bombing are the coolest parts. Still, it was really interesting to hear some of the stories about the Opera House, and we also got to go backstage, where lots of workers were preparing for the night's ballet performance.

When the tour finished, we exited the Opera House and headed straight for Hotel Sacher, where we tried our second specimen of sacher-torte. While I had given Demel's sacher-torte a 3.5 out of 5, I gave Hotel Sacher's a 4. This was mostly due to the fact that Sacher served theirs with whipped cream while Demel did not. Whipped cream always earns bonus points - remember that.

Next on our list was Heroes' Square and the Museum Quarter. We wandered around the square and took some pictures, then hiked it across the street to the Museum Quarter, which houses all kinds of museums. We had decided we wanted to visit the Leopold and the MUMOK (Modern Art Museum). At the Leopold there is a large collection of Egon Schiele's work, which was really awesome to see in person. At the MUMOK there was an exhibit of Claus Oldenburg.

Heroes' Square

Marissa being a guard

It was a long day, and a full one. We went back to the hostel and got a restaurant recommendation from the helpful fellow who worked at the front desk. He also was curious about Skeletonwitch - I was wearing my hoodie - so we watched a Skeletonwitch video on the hostel's front desk computer :). The restaurant he recommended was super delicious. It was a Vietnamese place, and I had crispy duck served over noodles. Really delicious.

So that's what we did on our third day in Vienna. I'm sorry it's taken me a while to write about the trip, but as you can see there were many pictures to edit and upload. I'll finish it this week, as our last day was a shorter one... then I'll be ready to write about my second trip to Vienna, which starts on Sunday! I'm looking forward to a challenging and exciting week in Austria.

I just made dinner here at my flat in Prague, and it was really delicious, I have to say... I started by browning some fresh minced garlic in olive oil, added chopped onions and tomatoes and sauteed them with cayenne and black pepper. Then, I added some cubed veggie steak for protien, and both red and green pesto. I topped it with some super delicious chunks of fresh mozarella and also grated parmesan. YUM! I've downloaded The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, so now I am going to lay down, watch a movie and get to sleep early tonight. Tomorrow is the finals of the conversation competition I was judging for last month, so I have to get up early and have a long day.