Thursday, February 23, 2006

in the club

It took 16 months, not including summer, but finally this afternoon I made a significant step in the journey to be more of a European. And after all the wait, it was a snap, really. Heh heh.

Today, about 10 American dollars purhased my membership into the not-exclusive-by-any-stretch club of Speedos Owners and Wearers. And the fun only started after the swim shop lady and I swapped paper for spandex.

Actually, going to the pool (indoor, of course) proved to be much more of a cultural experience than you might think, and actually felt much more like a luxury than any swim I've ever done in America. And the speedo, although tight, was not too small like the shop lady thought it would be (fortunately there was no real...measuring).

But even a speedo that's too small is better than one that's too big. I'll leave you with that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

a february spring

Why a California boy would ever throw himself into the mouth of a Central European winter is beyond me. And yet, here I am, and for a second round of it, no less. In Sokolov people like to talk about the weather, too, whether it's just for small talk or to but this time of year, usually just to complain. Count me in, I guess.

But last year was my first, true winter, and this California boy, for all his cold hands and chapped lips, found ways to appreciate it. And the best reason: spring. I've found that I never really appreciated the full force of joy of spring until I went through the cold and death of winter only to feel the warmth of the sun again and the green of the trees and a return of LIFE.

Midwesterners: hide your smirks. I'm a California boy after all, and there's a first time for everything, right?

Though it breaks any standard definition of "spring" that I've ever heard, last week was Spring Break for students and teachers in Sokolov and some parts of Prague. Fortunately, this meant that Chrissy and I shared the same holiday week! Nobody complains when bureaucracy goes their way, huh?

So we decided to pass the week out in Ostrava, visiting our friends and fellow English teachers, Darina, Emily, Laura and Kevin. Ostrava is way out in the eastern corner of the country and doesn't tend to attract a lot of visitors, but recently a flood of ESIers has decended upon this industrial paradise, and we were happy to keep up the trend.

The week wasn't all that eventful in the "good story" sense, but that never stops a faithful (merciless?) blogger. Here's some photos to make up for the words:

Two Fridays ago was ISŠTE's second maturitní ples, my fourth this year. This is a picture of me with the Švarcovi (the Švarc family, that is)---Jirka, Jirka and Mirka. This was a fun meeting in that I teach the whole family English: Big Jirka and Mirka attend my one business class, and Jirka Jr. is graduating from ISŠTE this year.

Last Tuesday was Valentine's Day, a holiday new to the Czech Republic since the revolution 17 years ago. Without the perspective of centuries of paper hearts and conversation hearts to ground them, some of my Czech friends think it's just (in the words of Lucy Van Pelt) "some commercial racket, run by a big Eastern syndicate, you know." Among the romantic things Chrissy and I accomplished this year, we wore matching red T-shirts given to us by one of my adult classes. And though I made many silly faces, it was not to distract from the fact that we were wearing matching red T-shirts.

Unfortunately, Chrissy was feeling a bit under the weather last week and we had to visit the doctor---an adventure in itself, which she will hopefully blog about. Needless to say, the experience was a bit frustrating, which explains why Chrissy chooses to pull a Godzilla to the clinic below in this shot taken from the top of Ostrava's city hall tower.

Just before leaving Ostrava we decided it would be a good idea to build a snowman. But although it was lots of fun, perhaps it wasn't a good idea after all, as digging around in the snow soon showed us that that particular spot has been frequented between fresh layers of snow by dogs who get their fiber. Photo by Laura, who luckily didn't discover any of the evidence herself.

hard to swallow

Unfortunately, Chrissy was feeling a bit under the weather last week and we had to visit the doctor---an adventure in itself, which she will hopefully blog about. We listened hard to the pharmacist as she was giving us directions for the perscriptions; we didn't understand her words, but her tone of voice said "This is important." The one word I singled out as critical we looked up later to be vypláchnout, "rinse." Confused and not knowing any better, this is us following her instructions:

As it turns out, vypláchnout more precisely means "rinse out the inside." So it turns out Chrissy was supposed to use this green stuff as mouth wash and not cough syrup. No wonder it went down so nasty, huh sweetie?

Yeah, and my Czech friends got a big kick out of the picture, too.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

catching up

So I've been away from the blogging world for quite a while now. This is mostly because my great friend and former teammate Brian (the Canadian I lived with last year) has been in Sokolov for an extended visit---partly to attend ISŠTE's maturitní plesi (sort of like prom: stay tuned), partly to reconnect with old friends and students, and partly to keep me company out here all by my lonesome. It's been pretty great having him here. Let the world know. Above is a picture of us in front of the Park Hotel Sokolov's inside-outside-inside waterslide, finished this summer.

So a lot has been happening since mid-January:

The first semester officially came to an end. The second is well underway and the "new start" season is passing into the old routine once again. So with the coming of February, year two in the Czech Republic is just beyond half-finished, and thoughts are already going towards a third year, this time: married. This is a picture of 4PD, gathered around my computer to watch the final product of the newscast project they worked on together appropriately called "The 4PD News."

I've been to three student graduation dances (plesi) so far, with at least two more to go. I'll post more about ples soon, but here's one of Brian and I suited up for the big dance.

Wedding plans are picking up! If a wedding is, in fact, a cake, then Chrissy and I are just about finished with making the batter, and soon we'll put all of the plans into the oven and let them cook.

I've also started dabbling in another favorite pastime for Czechs: cross-country skiing, or "running skiing" as they call it. This is me with my friend Petr, who had the skiis, the know-how, and the car that made it all come together.

Last week, my friend Mike and I stole the worm from that smug early bird, taking to the empty streets of historical Prague at 5:30am for a photo excursion of two of the most touristy (and rightly so) sites in the city, the Charles Bridge and Old Town Square. Our early-to-rise strategy paid off, and we had the sites completely to ourselves for long stretches of time. Wow. If Mike were Chrissy and it hadn't been well below freezing and 6am, it could have been plain romantic.

I spent all of Monday downloading Super Bowl commercials which later became part of a Tuesday morning lesson on one of America's most important holidays. For next year, I'm thinking of improving this lesson and doing it before the Super Bowl, in case some students would be interested in watching it (probably on tape, I guess, as the Big Game itself kicked off around midnight Czech time).

Spring Break is next week! Can you believe it? Spring Break in the middle of winter. So it goes. I'll be the last to complain.

One of my students has started giving me death metal music to listen to and talk about. It's been...interesting...but this guy is way into this music, and some of the conversations that have come out of it have been pretty good stuff. So if any of you know anything about metal music, send me your thoughts, eh?

So there's some broad strokes. Hopefully I'll get to some finer details soon.