Sunday, September 27, 2009


Alternativ seems to be in a constant state of relaxed chaos. None of us have full time schedules yet, but the majority of jobs are at schools in the suburbs of Prague or in the business districts near to where Alternativ is located. Devon has a Friday night classes way out in the country, but that's a different story.(Needless to say, he comes home and showers while drinking a beer, because he "doesn't have time" to do these separately.)
As we speak my schedule has been town apart a little bit. But up until yesterday it looked something like this:
On Tuesday mornings I wake up at 5:30 to make it to Bujeovicka metro stop to teach a 7am lesson with Mrs. Zamberska. She is a secretary at a company which pays for all of its employees to have language lessons. Even though it is very early, and extremely depressing to arrive in the dark to teach and leave when the sun is finally lighting up the sky, I find this lesson to be very fulfilling. She's an intermediate student so communication is pretty basic, we've just started on one of the future tenses. Emphasis on one of. Apparently in Czech there is only one future tense; I sense a challenge ahead of me.

My other job is in the afternoons, five days a week at a primary school called Kunratice Skola. After two weeks of working there i finally learned how to pronounce it. I have a group of children 6 to 9 years old. Which is a huge age difference in every aspect. My favorite children are the 6 and 7 years old because they aren't corrupted yet...

I think this may have been the original school. However I'm in a different building that has been renovated and added to.

I take the metro for about 20 min and then a bus for another 10 through the old communist housing blocks (pictures to come) and arrive in what was probably an old village before Prague swallowed it up. It's a very quaint and peaceful area.

I arrive in the afternoons in time to eat lunch with the children and then help my colleague Linda to bring them to the classroom I teach in.
For about an hour I teach them new vocabulary and talk to them. Linda, who is Czech, helps me when the children need something that wild gestures and a few words in English can't communicate. After that I take them outside and play if the weather is nice, or we stay inside and paint or color. We have yet to use the kitchen to bake, I'm a little fearful of all of the factors involved in this:
-Children. Baking.
-Finding an English recipe, but then using European measurements.
-children. baking.

Then we have snack and play time.
I was semi upset that I traveled all the why to the Czech Republic to basically babysit every afternoon, however I see the improvements everyday. My training in teaching young children comes in handy, and comes naturally. I teach them phrases by hitting the floor and giving them a rhythm to attach to their words. When we learn new words we whisper them and then shout them... It seems chaotic, but a lot of the children couldn't communicate with me when I arrived, but now can ask to use the bathroom or to play games, or in one instance ask me how my lunch was, "Your lunch is good, yes?"
I think language and fluency comes very slowly, however with the children, now that they are comfortable with me, have no trouble mimicking everything i say (when we play games I say a word and they, without prompting, repeat it). Even though I'm not supposed to be teaching them a proper lesson everyday, because this is an after school program, i think that in no time I will have 23 new English speakers on my hands.
Which makes the discipline easier.

You better watch out, the Pope is in town

The Pope was in town this past weekend. There was a three day weekend because Monday was a bank holiday celebrating Saint Vaclev, or King Wenceslas, a king from the 10th century. I think there is something political about the Pope's visit, however I find it incredibly humorous that he's here because apparently 59% of the Czech Republic's population say they are atheist or agnostic. My friend Radek told me that "no one is religious." Yesterday he told me it was silly that the Pope came to the tiny Czech Republic because he only visits big countries, or rather, more important ones....
My friends live a couple blocks from where the Pope was staying and so I walked by a couple times and each time there was roughly 30 people waiting to see him emerge from his posh hotel suite into his waiting armored Audi. A strange juxtaposition with the thousands of people who wait to see him in all of the "big" countries that he visits.
Here is a link to an article that Devon showed me, that perhaps better explains the Pope and his visit:

Because my Czech is non existent other than Dobry Den, I can't really read the news and figure out if his visit was successful or not...

So in a country full of beautiful churches that no one uses for religious purposes, what are they used for? I've heard that they are hired out for weddings and other events that call for a beautiful space, but there is nothing spiritual about the events...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Employment! Alternativ Jazykova skola

After the course we, the newly certified English teachers, were sent off into the world. My good friend Nicole had to go back to California to finish her teaching contract there. My friend Barbara went to South Korea, Domhnall went to Japan in search of work but is now in Australia, Kliment to Ethiopia, Lowell to Romania to propose to his girlfriend, my Slovakian roommate Zita went back to England and then hopefully to Spain.... literally, everyone all over the world!
About ten of us stayed in Prague and therefore scheduled interviews and spent the next two weeks telling language schools why we were all legit people and why our skills were exceptional from all of the other applicants.... Prague boast over 200 language schools, and therefore we were all bound to find something, despite the economic crisis. And wouldn't you know that six of us found a job at the same company, Alternativ Language school.
I interviewed at Alternativ as well as another school I'll leave nameless, but found the latter to be a very strict and cold environment, not something I imagined for a place of learning. Also, on my interview at Alternativ I was told I resemble a Czech movie star.... can't tell you which one, though... the majority of what was said in the interview was very broken English and a whole lot of Czech. But in the end, I found myself with a job along side some wonderful and familiar faces, including the roommate, Devon.View from the balcony of Alternativ

A few things about Alternativ:
1) The school is in a house in Prague 11, a rather longish commute for us from Prague 3.
2) It seems to be a family affair. Tanja is the director. She has her sons working as receptionists sometimes, and her niece acted as the Guinea pig of a student while we were training. The best employee is Milos, the husband. His job description went something like this: "You have paperwork problem, talk to Milos. You have technology problem, talk to Milos. You're feeling ill, talk to Milos." There is also Vendula, the methadologist, who is a striking woman from the "Paradise of the Czech Republic." Her enthusiasm for teaching us, both methodology and Czech lessons on Friday is incredible. However I think it is aided by:
3) Alternativ Wellness, which is housed upstairs from the language school. They offer homeopathic medicine including messages and acupuncture. For the employees of Alternativ, they give a 50% discount. Although Vendula probably gets her services for free; I've counted three times now when she has come back from one of our ten minute breaks with around 30-40 needles in her ear for her "thyroid."
Dad says this place sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit. I couldn't agree more. However, I enjoy it besides the humorous aspect. There is always coffee or tea waiting and on Monday Milos gave me a piece of cake that Tanja had made over the weekend. To find myself sipping tea and eating cake while I lesson plan, well, it's great.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Moving Day

After my windowless room at the hotel I'm happy to report this is the view from my new room!

At the end of the course we had a champagne celebration and then everyone from the group went out all night long. I got home at 5am and then got up at 7 to pack up my room at the hotel to move to my new apartment. Needless to say it was a very hard day! The only time I've ever taken a taxi in Prague was to move...
I found an apartment in a neighborhood called Vinohrady, in Prague 3. It's about a half hour walk from my apartment into Old Town, but it flies by quickly because it is a beautiful walk through Wenceslas Square and through the winding, cobblestone streets to the famous clock. I live a couple of blocks away from the famous TV tower and one block away from Church of the Sacred Heart, designed by a Slovenian architect. The Church is very modern and far from being beautiful, but you can see the clock from my apartment and it's quite a silhouette at sunset.

My apartment is one block away. You can see the Church of the Sacred Heart and the famous TV tower.

This is the courtyard of my building.

I originally lived with two guys that I took the TEFL course with, Devon and Keith. However, Keith was unable to find a job in time to complete the visa process before his three month tourist visa was up. One doesn't have to be extremely aggressive to get a job, however the people who treated this as another study abroad experience ended up regretting their procrastination and paying for it with a crappy job, or in Keith's case, going back to the States.
Devon and I found a job at the same company and so we live and work together. He is from Scottsdale, Arizona and is a recent graduate like me. He has pretentious taste in music, like me, and is easy to boss around. Therefore we get along splendidly. He's a great guy and my closest friend here.
Keith's replacement is a guy named Pete. He's from England, and has been living in a lot of different places the past couple of years, including Australia and Vancouver, Canada. He and I have been on a run or two together and I'm happy to be living with him.

Me and Devon. I call him Strawberry because of his complexion and strawberry blond hair.

Of course any living experience wouldn't be complete without a crazy landlord. Ours isn't an exception. She's about 50 or so and is very particular about every detail of the apartment. She doesn't speak very much English, and I don't speak Czech, so her particularities come through in pointing at things and shaking her head or waving her hands dramatically and saying "No! Yes? No!". She also says "Hello" as a greeting and a farewell. So after yelling at us, shaking her head, pretending to pull her hair out, she leaves the apartment with a "Hello."
She also comes to clean the apartment every month when rent is due. Which sounds nice, however the relater told us this was so she could check up on things, to make sure we're not destroying the apartment. She also cleans our rooms, and we have a feeling goes through our things.... All in all I appreciate the cleaning however, because living with boys is hardly a clean experience.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Update for the past 2 1/2 months

Introductions Because post cards no longer suffice after two and a half months, and because they're expensive to send, I think my adventures here in Prague call for a blog. A way to communicate to the wonderful people I have left to come here to live and go on adventures for a while.... I have neglected every single person at home and abroad in part, because of the chaos of life here, the amount of people to write to is daunting, and the hardest part of traveling for me is being away from my loved ones; I therefore neglect them, which is terrible. This is my third attempt at a blog. My first was in London and the second was Vienna. This one however will be a success because I'm actually living here; I am a citizen of Prague, Czech Republic and not a student or a traveler. There is more routine to my life here and therefore more time to write and update. Also, in the future, this will be amazing to refer back to. Update
Synopsis of the TEFL Course For the past two and a half months, life has been nothing but chaotic. I haven't had time or energy to sort through the experiences, but here is a tiny and detail-less synopsis. When I arrived in Prague in July, I lived in Prague 9, a rather newish suburb of Prague. My neighborhood was called Vysocanska. It was far from the romanticized version of Prague that I had imagined.
Vysočanská metro stop

I lived in a hotel which was right next to my school, TEFL Worldwide. It was convenient, however I lived on the top floor which resulted in me only having sky lights for windows, and walking up 82 stairs multiple times a day. The four week course, to earn my TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) consisted of classes in the morning on methodology, meaning how one exactly goes about teaching English in a realistic and understandable way. The method that I learned is amazing, and I wish that in all my language classes that I've ever taken I had learned this way: very slowly, with a focus on not translating from the mother tongue, but simply using the language. We had Czech lessons every Monday, so that we would understand how tough it is to learn a language, and how the teacher can actually make it easy and fun.
We taught our second day of the course. It was intimidating and scary! We were observed by one of the two instructors and graded on our teaching and given feedback for improvement.

Teaching the 3rd Conditional

Each week we had to teach two, 45 minute lessons to learners of all levels and ranging in age from 14 to 82. My favorite was the 60+ crowd. We also had to meet with a student for one to one lessons, three times. At the end of the course we had to turn in a 10+ page paper about our one to one meetings, the students abilities in reading, writing, speaking, areas for improvement, and personal observations. Within this essay we had to liberally use the proper language to describe our student, including Lexis, Phonology, and parts of the mouth where words are said, such as: unvoiced dental fricative consonants. To say the least, it was the most arduous four weeks of my life, but incredibly satisfying in our progress of learning and teaching.
The July TEFL class