The Long-Awaited Entry

Published: February 6th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Moravska Nova VesMoravska Nova VesMoravska Nova Ves

The Train Station
Ahoj my enthralled readers!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated this thing, and I apologize. Life here is crazy in Česká republika, there’s always lots going on and things to do, but since I saw all of you at Christmas and updated you on some of the things going on here, I think I’ll skip a lot and tell you about my post-Christmas adventures.

After spending New Year’s Day sick flying from Boston to Amsterdam to Prague, I finally made it back to Havlíčkův Brod and got right back in the swing of school. Not surprisingly, the first day back to school was difficult, as I had just arrived in Havlíčkův Brod roughly 12 hours beforehand, and my internal clock was all screwed up with the time change. However, I persevered and survived.

In the middle of January, though, some of my friends and I decided to meet in Moravia for the weekend in a small village named Moravská Nová Ves, which means New Moravian Village (creative, as always). There, we were supposed to visit a wine cellar, as Moravia is famous for its wines, and then attend a local ball. I made it to
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"Main Street" in Moravska Nova Ves with John, JoEllen, Alex, and Rachel.
Moravská Nová Ves around midday on Saturday, and there awaited Alex, JoEllen, Rachel, and John, who were luckily all traveling together, since they all live quite close to each other in the northeast of the country. When we all met up, we wandered through the small village to find our small penzion, and then set out for the wine cellar!

Our hostess actually drove us there, and she introduced us to Jan, who told us that we’d only be in the wine cellar for 1-2 hours. Well, six hours, 18 samples of different wines, and three jugs later, we emerged victorious from the wine cellar! We had a great time since Jan only spoke Czech, so JoEllen and I got to try our hand at simultaneous interpretation, and he actually taught the girls how to dance the polka. We made our way back through the village to our penzion, and then actually ended up going out for a pizza. Exhausted from a day of travel and, well, drinking, we hit the hay understandably early. There’s lots more to say about this adventure, but for your sake and ours, we’ll leave it as is!

The next big event that
Flowershop at the Czechs'Flowershop at the Czechs'Flowershop at the Czechs'

This is what all Czech people look like.
I got to experience was my medical school’s ball, or ples in Czech. It was so much fun! On Friday, January 21st, after having to call Maddie to confirm the clothes I’d picked out–or rather, have her pick out my clothes–I set out for Havlíčkův Brod’s culture house, which is where the ball took place. Having visited the culture house once before, I knew the layout a bit, and went upstairs to stand on the balcony. At 7 o’clock, the celebration began! There are two tracks of studies at the medical school, one that’s theoretical and one that’s practical, and so the first class of students (only about 29 kids) came out first. What happens at these balls is that the kids are in charge of it. They design and organize everything, it’s all up to them. It’s also customary for kids to take dance lessons in the Czech Republic, so when I say the kids came out, I mean that they actually came out onto the dance floor to perform some dances that they had choreographed together as a class. It’s actually a really nice tradition and really cool to see, in that these kids have been together in the same group for so many years, so know each other really well, and get to culminate with this as their final product, that they’ve undertaken something so huge together and celebrate it. Also, they’re performing this for their parents and their friends, which is, in my opinion, one of the greater attributes in comparison to prom. Everyone is invited, so long they of course buy a ticket, and so it was a celebration with everyone, not just the class (since classes here are so much smaller than in the US). After the practical students performed, the theoretical students came out and also performed. I’ll throw in, too, that they did this really cool thing where they actually danced to Grease for part of their performance, to the song Grease Lightning (but in Czech, which is called Náš Auťák), and the kids actually all condensed into a small group with one of my students, Magdaléna, standing out front holding a steering-wheel, actually “driving” the other students, as the students moved in rhythm with her every time she swerved, which was really cool to see.

After the students performed, two red carpets were rolled out, and the classes lined up
Our WineryOur WineryOur Winery

Alex standing in front of the place we hung out at.
on either side. In pairs, one student from each class walked together down the carpet to the front, where they received a sash that said “Maturant 2011,” which basically means “Senior 2011.” As they walked down the “aisle,” a song played that each pair had chosen together, which was really funny to hear, since all but two of them were in English. If the students knew what half the songs were about, though, I’m sure theyd’ve been mortified and never would’ve chosen ‘em! As they walked down the aisle, too, all of the onlookers actually threw coins down onto them. Now, at first I thought this was just for fun, since I was standing next to a group of girls who were actually pretty brutal and pegging them at my students, but it’s actually for good luck and for a rich future, all that fun stuff. Hopefully, by getting whacked by coins, it means you’ll get hit with a lot more money in future. I suppose since nobody ever threw money at me, that’s the reason why I’m not rollin’ in the dough at the moment. So it goes.

After all the students have their sashes, they all raise

JoEllen and me sitting at the table before we went down into the cellars.
a glass of champagne to each other (remember: the drinking age here is 18, and most of these kids are already 19 when they graduate high school), and then actually pick up all the coins off the ground, which was really funny to see them scrambling about. Then, there’s a parent-child dance, so the boys dance with their mothers and the girls with their fathers, and then the night descends into debauchery, to say the least. Most of the parents got fairly drunk, as did the students, but it was a lot of fun. I ended up dancing with most of them (until about 3:30 in the morning, mind you), was taught by one of my students how to dance the polka, and actually also danced with one of my students’ grandmothers, if you can imagine. Overall, the night was a blast, we all had so much fun together, and next weekend I have the ball for my other school, which I’m looking forward to!

Since the ball, things have been pretty quiet. I started an after-school floorball league with my students at the medical school, so that’s been fun. I’ve also been really busy just preparing lots of

Jan, the man who owned the cellar, giving us wine to sample.
stuff for school, since I’ve had younger students now, who are really, really fun. Unfortunately, I’m not going to have them anymore, but they were about 13 and always so excited to have class with me and talk with me. The first day I was with them, they drew an American and Czech flag on the board, and since then have taken down the picture of Václav Klaus, the Czech Republic’s president, every day, and instead have put up an American flag, since one of my students has been to NYC. We’ve had lots of fun, but my schedule got changed yet again, and so this week I’ll actually start with “prima,” the youngest students, who are only about 11, and have just started learning English, so it should be an interesting experience to say the least!

This past weekend was a great time, too. On Friday night, JoEllen came to Havlíčkův Brod after officially being hired as an English teacher for next year at a high school in Prague. I introduced her to a great pub/restaurant, where we actually had had our Stužkovák, the pinning ceremony back in November, and then on Saturday showed her the city. On
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Jan in the cellar.
Saturday afternoon, Alex joined us, and we actually went out for Chinese food, which was awesome, and then I brought them to Havlíčkův Brod’s brewery. They both seemed to really like Rebel, too, the local beer. Late at night, John joined us, so he only got to see the city by night, but it was great of him to come nonetheless. On Sunday morning, we woke up early to catch the train down to Brno, where I gave them a quick tour of the city center, since they had never visited, and we ended up getting some KFC. We then met a bus that Fulbright had reserved for us, full of other Fulbrighters from Prague, and we headed on our way to Slovakia! We were going to our mid-year conference in Trenčianské Teplice, a spa-town in the northwest of Slovakia. It was a really fun bus-ride, being all together with the other English Teaching Assistants again, and getting to chat in normal English and be crazy. We’re such a fun group, we all kept saying how lucky we all are to be here with Fulbright and have met each other. Scary to say it, but we’re already talking about our
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Rachel learning to dance from Jan.
future yearly reunions in some different spot in the US each year!

Trenčianské Teplice is really a small village, just one road, and we arrived there Sunday afternoon to meet our Slovak counterparts. We’d met the Slovak ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) at the conference in Poland back in November, and so it was great to be reunited! We explored the village, had a welcome dinner (with blue wine, if you can believe it), and then headed to the pool! We were all most excited for the pool, none of us having swum in so long, and then we also got to spend time in the saunas. The hotel we were staying at is also a spa, and so there were many types of saunas, and it was all-around an awesome place to stay!

On Monday, we had to sit through lots of presentations from the researchers, professors, and exchange teachers about their experiences in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, etc., etc. I actually had to duck out a little early, since we were running late, as I had made an appointment for my first massage ever. It was only 20 minutes long, but that was more than enough,
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JoEllen learning to dance from Jan.
as after about 10 minutes it switched from being an interesting, new experience to, well, just plain awkward. Hey, it’s a good story. Alex had his first massage ever right after mine, too, so when I got back up to our room, he had thousands of questions, and then went off to experience it. We concurred after his that we’re both glad to have done it, but don’t think we’ll be needing another one any time soon. After that, since we had the evening free, we all just hung out together, went in the pool and saunas yet again, and then actually went to the hotel’s bar/café. The fun part, though, is that we were really the only ones staying at the hotel, so we just went to the bar in our pajamas! None of us actually wore shoes, either, so we were sitting there at a booth wearing pajamas and socks, drinkin’ a beer and chatting. It was an absolute blast.

Tuesday was, in my opinion, much more exciting. We, the ETAs, had our presentations, and so we got to tell about our experiences here, what we actually do, etc. I think until this point most of the
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Down in the wine cellar, which was freezing.
other Fulbrighters haven’t really taken us too seriously, since they think we just show up to work and go with it. After our presentations, they got to see really how much time, effort, energy, and creativity goes into the preparation and execution of our lessons, and it was honestly nice to get some recognition for it. We got to tell our crazy stories, and I think most were shocked at how flexible we have to be, and how quickly we have to think on our feet. One such example is that two weeks ago I had prepared a whole lesson about job interviews, and writing a letter of motivation in English when applying for a job. I had homework lined up and everything. I got to school and was told, “Oh, we didn’t think it was that important, so instead, we’re going to talk about immigration.” To clarify, I asked, “Immigration or emigration?” The answer? “Yes.” “Ok. In the Czech Republic or in the United States?” “Yes.” Basically, I had to come up with a whole lesson about it off the top of my head, but that’s what’s been happening to all the ETAs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia,
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Beware of the dog!
and so it was nice to be recognized as having a very difficult job by people who I think previously did not think that. We were described by one man as “being on the front line,” as most of the other Fulbrighters really don’t have much interaction with Czechs, or simply live in English-speaking bubbles in Prague, whereas we are in smaller cities across the country/ies where people really don’t speak English. We celebrated on Tuesday night by swimming, saunaing, and of course going back to the bar in our pajamas!

Wednesday we had our farewell lunch, said ahoj to our Slovaks (though we’re going to see some of them at a conference in Berlin next month!), and boarded the bus back to the Czech Republic. After a hectic dash to the train station and getting on the train with minutes to spare, having had a hasty goodbye with Alex and John, I made it back to Havlíčkův Brod and was right back in school on Thursday. Thursday night, too, I went out to a pub with some of the teachers from the regular high school, which was a lot of fun, and several are going to help me
The Wine StreetThe Wine StreetThe Wine Street

All these buildings are wine cellar.
try to find a job for next year working in a translation office, which would be really great if it worked out!

Overall, things here are pretty great, though busy. I’m using this weekend just to relax. I actually got Chinese take-out on Friday night from the same restaurant I took Alex and JoEllen to, and have just been watching a series that Alex recommended to me, Deadwood, about the Wild West, which is great. Tomorrow at the regular high school we have the English Olympics, which should be interesting to say the least, and then next weekend I have a birthday party for a student and then on Saturday night another ball. The following weekend, the adventure begins with Mom and Regina, which I’m really looking forward to!

Anyways, my apologies again for the delay, but I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Additional photos below
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My TicketMy Ticket
My Ticket

For the medical school's ball.
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The Culture House

Decorated inside.
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The "Practical" Students

Doing their opening dance.
The "Theoretical" StudentsThe "Theoretical" Students
The "Theoretical" Students

Doing their opening dance.

Dancing to "Grease Lightning" with Magda steering the car!
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The Carpets

One carpet for each class.

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