Saturday, September 30, 2006

It's all over now, baby blue

Greetings from a newly-qualified EFL teacher! Yesterday was fun, we still had to teach in the afternoon, but we were unobserved, so it was just games and teaching them a little bit about our countries and so on. Quite a few of the students came to the cafe afterwards as well, then we went out for dinner locally before heading into Prague.
We first wound up at this bar near Wenceslas Square, which was like a faux medieval cave (but of course) where I had some Czech absinthe (sp?) for the first time. I have tried absinthe before, but for some reason I thought Czech stuff would be the real 'green fairy' deal, which it's not. However, it was pretty damn cool doing the whole show with lighting the sugar and setting the absinthe on fire (although I kept dropping the spoon into it and winding up with a mouthful of unmelted sugar at the end of the shot).
Then some of the Czechs took us to like an underground 80s/90s rock club ha ha - proper Czech place, I think we were the only tourists there, which was cool. This real skeevy like 50 year old Czech man in a suit kept hitting on me though. I'm not quite sure whether it's the classic Czech pickup line to go "Dance! Dance!" like if I don't he's going to pull out a gun and start shooting around the region of my feet, or whether that's one of the only English words he knows. I managed to escape, but every time I walked past his table it was "Dance now!"
I just noticed how many times I've used 'Czech' in this post...
Anyway, we had fun and Laurie and I got home (free night bus! and by 'free' I mean we didn't pay for it...) at about 5 am. Luckily I'm semi-packed, because it's out of the flat by 2.30 today. We've seen some of the people off already, I'm really sad that people are leaving and I don't know when/if we'll get to catch up again. I've really met some of the coolest people since I've been here.
Tonight we have nowhere to go, so the plan is to stay up half the night then have about 14 of us sleeping on the floor in Carolyn's wee apartment, hurrah! From tomorrow, we've booked out a room in a hostel for a week, so I get to hang out with everyone a bit longer at least.
After that, I have no clue, so watch this space! I've applied for a job in Moscow, but who knows how that's going to go, and then there's waiting for a visa even if I get it. But apart from the money thing, I'm in no rush to leave Prague, I'm having the time of my life.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Eating out

Service in the Czech Republic is slow - seriously slow. Order now for next week.
Service is also surly. Last night we went out to the 'local' - The Red Onion, a restaurant we've been to many times before over the past month. There were about 20 of us - a pretty decent money-spinner for the place. This time, however, we had Czech-speaking spies with us, who informed us at the end of the night that every time the waitress came in she'd say something in Czech like "Here's your food, British bitches"!!!! Several of our number were more offended at being called British than being called bitches...
So in revenge, I present the funnier parts of the menu (and also tell anyone who may be in Prague, don't go to the Red Onion in Budejovicka!):

Will sir have 'Fettucini "Mafioso", or 'Mexican kettle' (Pork and bacon)? Or maybe something from the chicken section, headed up 'Chicken breast, breast, little breast'? The turkey portion of the menu is entitled 'A little more from turkey' and includes 'Pocket full of vitamin' (turkey and spinach). You could have steak, or as the menu puts it, 'Finally a proper fillet'. Or if you're adventurous, 'Mixed spicy meat in tinfoil (surprise!)'. Or for dessert, how about the 'Habitual drinker' (chocolate ice-cream with rum sauce). And finally 'Something to beer', which confusingly doesn't feature beer at all, but side-dishes. Although be warned, side-dishes are strictly side-dishes, no ordering them unless you've ordered a main!

The only question is why they bother having an English menu if they don't want us in there!

PS Last day of the course, I've packed my bags (sad times) no idea where I'm going though, watch this space!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More photos - mostly drunken

I've finally burnt my photos - so now I present the drunken escapades of budding English teachers - sorry Mum & Dad!

Me and Scotty on the metro - how drunk am I on a cline? (sorry, TEFL jargon alert!) Ah, the chin kiss, the most coveted of all...

Mark, me, Alasdair, Scott

'Dirty Pirate Hooker' - don't ask me, ask Alasdair

Carolyn, Scotty, Sonja, me and Alasdair - the 'pre-drunk' look

Nick, Laurie, two of her friends, Alasdair, Jo, Mark, and the arm of Captain Drunko, thankfully cropped out (good thing it was my camera eh)

Laurie, me and Jo

Carolyn, me, Nick

Alasdair and Sonja


Alasdair, me and Scotty taking the metro home after a solid night's drinking

Alasdair and Laurie (Carolyn cropped out upon request)

The flatties - Laurie, Jo and me. Yes Jo, I'm eating in my pyjamas...

Some of my boys - Mark, Alasdair, Scotty (s2h!) and Nick

"Interesting" Czech energy drink... It was okay, but it's no V

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The students

A bunch of us went out to the pub on Friday night with one of the classes, which was fun. It was a high-level class, so they could pretty much just chat with us - they even got some things I thought would go over their heads, e.g. when I asked Alasdair (look, I spelled it correctly!) if he was hitting on one of the students - d'oh! Although I was trying to explain to one of them that a common Czech expression 'fakt jo', which means basically "that's right" sounds pretty much exactly like 'f--- you' to us. Trouble is, he thought I was actually saying 'f---- you' to him ha ha! Eventually I managed to get him to understand that I wasn't saying it to him, but the furthest we got was him thinking I was asking him to teach me to swear in Czech... which he didn't even do! But I've gotta get me a t-shirt with 'fakt jo' on it ha ha. If only they made them instead of stupid 'Czech me out' ones...

Anyway, I thought I would present a couple of funny things students (and teachers) have said:

- I was teaching a class with the theme of photography, and I asked the students to imagine what was going on in a photo of four men on a rooftop. One of them started off "I think they're four friends" (nice, I'm with you so far) "who have gone up onto the roof to commit suicide." Ummm, riight...

- In someone else's class, they were playing a game where you have to describe an item to your partner without naming it. Donuts? "The favourite food of policemen." I guess that one's universal, eh?

- A teacher who shall remain nameless was teaching a class about star signs. One of the answers in an exercise was 'Cancer'. After one of the students gave that answer, he said "Does everyone have cancer?" It was pretty much over the students' heads, but we all cracked up, so he goes, "No, wait. Cancer has two meanings in English, I don't mean..." at which point he trailed off thankfully.

- In someone's class on sport and exercise, one girl said she liked going to the gym because afterwards she liked being sweaty. What?

I'm sure there are plenty more I can't remember at the moment, but hard as teaching English is, it can have its fun moments, let's not forget.
One week of CELTA to go! Then I'll be a proper teacher ?!?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A bit nippy

Definitely getting colder here in Prague. Over the last couple of days summer seems to have come to an end, and while winter definitely hasn't arrived, I think autumn is upon us. This morning we woke up to a blanket of fog all the way up on the 13th floor and walking to school my breath was clouding (if you know what I mean). Everyone in the CELTA family is going a little bit nuts as third-week stress takes hold... We're all starting to make plans for post-CELTA life (will life go on? will we survive?) I think I'm going to stick around for a week or so, but who really knows? Good news is that my lovely Mum managed to change my flights, so I don't have to go home until August 2007 (woohoo!)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

CELTA blues

Ah, 3rd week doldrums here on the CELTA course I'm afraid. Not enough sleep, had a massive cold for about a week - it almost went away but I stayed up too late on Sat night (between nine of us, 6 bottles of wine, half a litre of rum and 5 litres of beer - not that I even got drunk but up far too late) and thoroughly re-coldenated. So I was feeling like hell on Sunday and yesterday, still passed my lesson but staying upright a bit of a problem. Two assignments due today which I haven't finished and another lesson to teach tomorrow - the present perfect oh no!
Plus today I went out to the ends of the earth to try and change my flights, then turned out the travel agent sent me to the marketing office of British Airways instead of the ticket desky whatever (I knew the travel agent was full of it, because who sites their customer service office out in the scenic industrial 'burbs of Prague? PS Getting there was fun, I managed to receive and understand instructions in Russian from an old woman). So then I obtained a phone number for British Airways (the one in the Prague phone book was disconnected) and they told me I'd have to arrange it with STA in Auckland. So here for all to see, STA sucks! Do not use them! They will send you out into the middle of nowhere and make you make all the freaking arrangements yourself. And I still don't know if I can change my flights.
Last time I also forgot to mention my least favourite thing about Prague which is the beggars you see all over the show in the centre of town. Sure, every big city has its homeless. What I hate about these is that they get down on their knees and elbows, bending right over, holding their hands out in front with their heads bowed. You don't know whether they expect you to give them money or to kick them while they're down, it's awful.
On the upside, I passed my lesson yesterday and my grammar assignment, so I'm still doing okay, but I'm feeling right now like the last thing I wanna do is be a teacher...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Life in the Czech Republic

Qualified as I am to comment after about 2 1/2 weeks here in Prague, I present Gwan's guide to the Czech Republic:

  • It's compulsory to own a small dog. Bonus points if you take it on the metro with you. Although the prize goes to the woman who took a bunny in a basket on the metro - with no visible restraints on said bunny.
  • Want to cook like a Czech? Step One: Select which 12 meats you would like to cook with today - be creative! The suspect parts of an animal are more than welcome here. Step Two: Add a couple of buckets of salt. Step Three: Serve - dobrou chut!
  • Why not have things salty? Beer, beer, and more beer should accompany every meal, no matter what time of day.
  • The national dish is fried cheese. Mmmm, fried cheese. Goulash is also pretty tasty, as is chicken breast in potato batter... fattening...
  • The English versions of menus are a great source of hilarity. Want 'headcheese' or 'mildew cheese' - CZ is the destination for you!
  • Despite the meat-heavy, fatty foods that are the nation's signature cuisine, the obesity epidemic has yet to hit CZ - in fact, there would probably have to be a 'normal-sized epidemic' first.
  • Related to the above point, skinny, pretty girls abound here, whereas the fellas are decidedly average - not the place for Gwan to catch a man (sorry to disappoint Sue).
  • Perhaps they're skinny because Czech chocolate is pretty blah :(
  • The nation's fashion sense often seems to have stalled at 1989. And why not, it was a good year all around for CZ. However, she-mullets, heavy makeup and all-denim outfits (for guys and girls) are de rigeur
  • You will see men taking a whizz on the side of the road - just avert your eyes
  • Central Prague is full of people who love nothing better than sucking their new financial-imperial overlords - um, I mean tourists - dry. Fair enough, I suppose, but live like a local and avoid! Walking just a few streets back from the main squares can save you a mint.
  • Most people here do speak some English - but try and explain to them you just want to look at the menu and you'll get into all sorts of difficulties - especially out in the 'burbs.
  • As some of the others on the course found out, leave the lift door ajar so no-one else can use it, and they'll somehow sniff out the culprit and leave a sign in the lift reading "Dear English friends, please make sure you close the lift door" - gotta wonder how much collaborative effort went into the production of that!
  • Cars roar down those narrow cobbled streets - pedestrians or no pedestrians
  • Jaywalking is ILLEGAL and if you do it you're liable to be snapped by a cop waiting on the other side of the road (eh Sonja?)
  • Jaywalking is illegal but... when you've got the little green man it won't stop cars continuing to come around the corner

I'm sure I'll have more pearls of wisdom to impart as the final (?) two weeks of my time here in Prague tick by...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Give the people what they want

Right, so I did a really good lesson yesterday, if I do say so myself (plus I got good feedback) - but could it be the class appreciated a little more than my dazzling knowledge of vocabulary and charming teacherly manner? Could it be that they appreciated that whenever I leant over their desks ('monitoring' as we call it in the TEFL game) everyone could see right down my top? Yes, I think that's a distinct possibility. The offending top is the brown one you can see me wearing in the photos at the Guinness factory - not too low-cut for teaching, as I fondly believed. Unfortunately, I forgot to factor in the looseness of the top and the angle of incidence (if you will) and was completely oblivious (caught up in my teacherly duties, natch) until it was pointed out by my loving classmates after the lesson. Most embarrassingly, one of my loving classmates is old enough to be my father...
Ah well, at least I got a couple of "they looked nice, though"s! (Not from the elder statesman of the group, I may add...) My beloved low-cut tops, what will I do with you now?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Praha nights... and days

Gardens below Prague Castle - note the gorgeous day

In the gardens below Prague Castle

No guns allowed in the Senate gardens. Also no whatever that is top left. You hear?

The gardens below Prague Castle

Friday night we decided to let off a bit of steam and went out on the booze as a class. Cue speaking loudly and obnoxiously in English on the metro - whoops! I'm eternally annoyed that I'm paying about triple the price for a vodka etc. than everyone else is for beer, but that's my fault really. Anyway, we walked across Charles Bridge and back, and I must say, Prague by night is really something. We're all so busy working on assignments and stressing out about teaching classes, but it was one of those, "Hang on a minute, we're in fricking Prague!" moments. Nobody got as spectacularly drunk as I might have wished, including myself. Some people went back home quite early, but the 'hard-core' took the metro out into the suburbs a bit, to everyone's favourite stop on the line, 'I.P. Pavlova'. The charm of 'I. P. Pavlova' is probably impossible to understand without being here - but if you look at that and say to yourself, "Eye Pee PavLOVa", you're way off. It's "Eee Pay PAVlova" and listening to the metro announcer say it is one of life's little joys here in Praha (as we locals term it). Anyway, we kept getting kicked out of bars in I. P. (not for drunken misbehaviour, but because they were closing at about 12.30) which was a shame because we found one that sold 500 mls of Gambrinus beer for about $1.60 ha ha. I went home after that but a few people (LAURIE) stayed on and drank absinth to the wee hours and regretted it severely the next day.

Talking of the next day, it was up early and to the cafe to work on our fiendishly difficult grammar analysis assignment - d'oh the pain. But that didn't stop me and Scotty going in to Wenceslas Square (main shopping drag) that arvo & me & four of the boys going back out to I.P. in the evening - who wants to spend a month in Prague and never stir out of Budejovicka (our 'burb, as the more perceptive will realise). Had some drinks and some fun - best part was waiting for the metro home, where we played the fun little game of "is anyone coming down the escalator going to step on the dog poo on the last step?" And indeed some people did...

On Sunday, after a little bit of homework in the morning, I headed into the city because it was the most gorgeously sunny hot day, not one cloud anywhere in the sky, as you will see when I have more photos to upload. I went to an exhibition on Durer, which was okay, but one of those where they cunningly take mostly things that are already in the Czech national collections and charge you a premium (well, about $3.50) to go see them housed all together. Based around 'The Feast of the Rose Garlands' if anyone cares to Google it. Then I took a stroll in the Palace Gardens below Prague Castle, which are pretty wicked terraced gardens that run up the hillside - originally the hill was fortified with the terraces, now they are lovely gardens - great views from there as well, but man was I a sweaty monkey! After that I struggled in vain to find the Kafka Museum - Jess will laugh if she's reading this, because we probably walked past it 5 times together when she was over, but it's not in my guide book and I just could not retrace my steps - and no-one else knew either. I ended up instead going into the gardens of the Wallenstein Palace (yep, more gardens, what's with that?) which now houses the Czech Senate - and they were pretty nice too.

Assignment's due tomorrow, wish me luck...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Catch-up session

Right, so I'm officially too busy to blog every day - you can all heave a great big sigh of relief. To catch up, here:
is a site with pictures from the theatre we went to, which should give a much better idea than my lame prose. Jess and I also saw the Charles Bridge (crowded as usual), the clock in the Old Town Square (man, who's sick of the Charles Bridge and the clock already?), had a wee argument with a waiter about the exortionist price they charge for drinks in said Old Town Square (read: Jess had an argument...) went on a wee boat trip on the Vltava, which consisted of very sloooowly cruising up the river a wee bit, turning round, going back down, turning round again, going back up, turning round again and docking - with the occasional muttered commentary and some very dry cake, to be fair. We also did a good bit of wandering about, found a place that sold second-hand books in English (hurrah! 50 crowns for a copy of Madame Bovary, or about $3.50 for those who aren't up to speed) a very cool little wine bar, where the proprietor (?) gave me her phone number (score!) and stumbled across an outdoor exhibition of cool aerial photos which you could find at this memorable website address ha ha. I'm sure it makes sense in Czech.
Since the course started, as I've mentioned, it's been massively full-on. Teaching is frightening and I still have no idea, as the Clash would say, "Should I stay or should I go?" (If I knew where a pay-phone was, I'd be calling my mum!) However, there are some wicked people in the class so it's been drinkies all round, then back to the flat to feverishly do homework with Jo & Laurie, my flatmates. And if you're thinking, "Where do I know the names 'Jo and Laurie'?" then yes, you also have a weird attachment to Little Women. The class consists of me, 'token kiwi', an australian 'mortal enemy' ha ha, 4 yanks, one singaporean/norwegian, an italian/american and a small barrel-load of Brits. More girls than guys, but it's not too uneven. Most importantly, they're a good lot to have a drink and a laugh with and boy do you need that at the end of a long day... Tonight (Friday) we're going out properly to the centre of Prague, so I'll have to report back on who can handle their liquor and who made a fool of themselves (not me and me, I predict...)
Can you believe that the course to make little Gwan a teacher is a quarter over? Nah, me neither. Plus our first assignment's due on Tuesday - grammar analysis, eek! If you thought I corrected your spelling/grammar before, just you wait!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Me & my big sis

Charles Bridge from the river - not the most beautiful Prague day I've seen

The 'Fred and Ginger' buildings - ignore the tram lines

Good taste in saints at St. Vitus'

View from the Cathedral at Prague Castle

Jess arrived late on Friday night, and luckily my flatmate and I met her at her hostel - luckily because the proprietor spoke no English and it took a lot of gestures and very basic Czech to make her understand who we were and what was happening. However, the situation probably wasn't helped by the fact that two girls who weren't staying in the hostel turned up first and tried explaining to her in Czech: "my sister, my sister. Here? Not here. No, I don't stay. Sister. Not here. Come here." etc. Anyway, we got there in the end. The next day was absolutely beautiful but HOT. We went up to Prague Castle, which is more a walled palace complex than a castle per se - went in the cathedral and up a big spiral staircase to have some beautiful views across the city, in the palace which was pretty average really, and down 'Golden Lane' which is touted as a picturesque medieval-style street but which is really full of shops, so no wonder they funnel you down there on the cheap ticket. At night we went to a black light show, which was really cool. As the name suggests, they use a black light and the performers have coloured bits on their clothes and wave flags and stuff as they do modern dance - sounds crap but is actually really cool, they look like they're floating and so on. Must run, drinkies await. More later...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Quick note

Got to be quick, I'm teaching a proper 40 minute lesson this afternoon - help! And it's only the second day of the course. Had to do 30 mins yesterday, but it was just ice-breaker type games, so not too bad. Oh and then I fell over in the supermarket in front of one of the guys from the course wah :(
All the people seem pretty cool, course seems pretty tough - 8.30 am to 6 pm every day! Ah well, we still went out for a 'pivo' (beer) last night - well, they did, I had Baileys...
My sister Jess was also here for the weekend and we did some cool stuff but I'm going to have to leave you in breathless anticipation of exactly what we got up to because I'm off pretending to be a real teacher... wish me luck!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Josefov and St. Nicholas' Church

Interior of the dome at St. Nicholas'

That's some good smiting, Ralphie

Painted ceiling in St Nicholas'

Interior of St. Nicholas' Church

View of the river from Charles Bridge

One of the statues on Charles Bridge

The Jewish Graveyard

Clock in the Jewish Quarter

Yesterday afternoon I went out to Josefov, the Jewish Quarter in Prague and toured around a few of the synagogues and the old Jewish graveyard. The graveyard is quite a sight - because the Jews weren't allowed any more land on which to bury their dead, the graveyard is crowded with hundreds of headstones, and people are apparently buried up to 7 layers deep. The various synagogues have been converted into museums covering different aspects of Jewish life. I didn't get the chance to go into all of them, but the ones I did were really interesting, covering aspects of Jewish religion, customs, daily life etc. One was a Holocaust memorial, where the walls were covered with the names of Jewish holocaust victims (not sure if it was from Prague alone or from the whole of Czech republic). Upstairs was an exhibit of drawings done by children in the Terezin (Thieresenstadt sp?) concentration camp. Terezin was used by the Nazis as a propaganda piece, to show that life in concentration camps wasn't that bad, hence the children were allowed to be educated to an extent, draw and put on musicals. Despite this, it was definitely a place of suffering, and most of its inhabitants were eventually transported to other camps further east and killed. It was a very moving place to be...

Today I went to St Nicholas' Church in Malostranke (the Little Quarter) which is the most over-decorated Baroque church going - frescoes, gilding, statues, painted ceilings etc. etc. Amazing place! I also went back down Charles Bridge and took photos of the statues, of which I think there are 36.

Metro report: The metro in Prague seems to be busy at all hours of the day, although never packed. Pleasant things to do on the metro include watching a czech couple in their 30s fully making out on a crowded train. Talk about get a room - make that get at least a foot of space around you before you get it on! Bitter, moi? Never! Also fun is when the middle-aged man behind you decides that the best way to get you to move out of the way so he can get off the train is to push you as hard as he can in the back of the knees with his bag. Pity I actually had nowhere to go except straight into the guy in front of me, which would likely have resulted in the guy in front of me going out the open doors of the train... And then said middle-aged man muttered something presumably uncomplimentary at me in Czech on his way out. Well, screw you too buddy!

PS You should see how crowded it gets around the Old Town Square clock on the hour (when the 12 apostles come out and do their thing). Also Charles Bridge v. crowded.

Things I forgot to say earlier:
There is a book vending machine at Heathrow Airport. Cool! Although, like vending machines everywhere, it only sells junk.
I also went to the National Gallery of Scotland whilst in Edinburgh - lots of big names - Rubens, Raphael, Rembrandt and also people whose names don't begin with 'r'. I must confess I was so tired I missed the gallery of Scottish artists - did I miss anything?