Friday, June 25, 2010

June 23, 2010

June 23, 2010

I don’t know how to start this entry. I am completely overwhelmed by the past few days, my last days in the Czech Republic, more specifically in Novy Bydzov. I guess I will simply start by letting you know where I am writing from. Right now I am sitting at the Prague airport. My flight for New York City where I will be reunited with my family doesn’t leave for another 10 and half hours. So, with easy calculation I will be sitting at this airport for a great while. Not really quite sure as to what I am going to do, but I figured it was best to start by letting everyone know how my last few days have been. The kindness and generosity of the people I have met in the Czech Republic has not only taken me by complete surprise, but their actions have placed them above all ideas I could have of true human compassion.

During these last few days my classes at school have been drastically cut due to a lot of activities going on at the school. It has been nice, but it was also disappointing in a way. The disappointment came in the idea I had planned for all my classes. I had each student prepare speeches about themselves and it was during this week I was planning on recording all my students. However, with the cancellation of so many of my classes, I missed out on recording several of my favorite students. I still was able to get many of the students I really enjoyed teaching on video and I hope to compile the videos into a short, I guess you would call it, film. Many of the students were reluctant to be recorded. Expressing that they felt I would bring the videos of them home and all the people I showed them to would laugh at them. I believe this is far from the actuality of it though. I think the people who are able to watch the video will be amazed at the students I had the privilege of teaching. Yes, I know, I complained about them a lot, but after nearly a year with them and having my ups and downs with nearly every student, in the end these students will always be a special part of my life. I cannot lie, at moments they brought me to points of complete frustration, but they also showed me a spirit in the young people of the next generation which is promising and hopeful.

So, as I have wrote, many of my classes were cancelled, but on the other hand, for the first time I think all this year everyone of my lessons happened. Not one of the students I tutored cancelled. It was a special week with these people. I know this may be a bit too much to share, but I am going to do it anyway because each of these people touched my life. I am going to go through each of my last lesson with each of the people I have lessons with one by one. Starting with my first lesson on Monday and continuing all the way to my last lesson last night. In addition, I wish to share with you some special moments I had with people from Novy Bydzov who were not receiving lessons from me.

Let me start with the first lesson, it was at 4:00 on Monday afternoon, and it is a lesson with a woman in her mid-forties, I believe. She is brilliant and unbelievably kind. All year long she has not cancelled a lesson with me, except when she was forced to have surgery on her leg and couldn’t even go into work. The funny thing about her absence, she actually started coming back to my lessons before she started going back into work. She truly amazed me at her thirst to become a fluent English speaker. Now, the amazing thing to me about this woman is her age. Now, I am not saying in the least that a woman in her mid-forties is old, but the rarity of seeing a woman of that age have such a passion for learning was amazing. I cannot lie about these lessons because at a point I did complain to Andrea about the lessons I had with this woman because for a couple of weeks in a row we were discussing literature, but the discussions pretty much did not go any further than her spending the hour telling me the complete in and outs of some book she had read. That was nothing more than a couple of weeks though. And the discussions we have had on travel, literature, politics, and a whole variety of topics have been intriguing. I have found myself in lessons with this woman, sitting down with her and being so captivated by our discussion that the next thing I look up and we have gone over the allotted hour time. It never bothered me; it was refreshing to have such intellectual conversations. See will be greatly missed, and when we finished our final lesson she handed me a present. I wasn’t expecting to receive any types of gifts from the people I gave lessons to, I know this may sound sexist, but I figured the people I gave lessons to would see me as man, and in my view typically it as women who exchange or give gifts. I was happy my sexist view did not take president here; the woman gave me two extremely nice pens, the perfect gift for an aspiring writer. More sexist comments, but women really know how to pick out presents much better than man. She had hit the nail on the head with the idea of give me something to use to write, to continue with my passion. It was heartwarming goodbye, you will see this trend continues, but it is difficult to say goodbye to someone you have built a bond with and you never know if you will see them again your life. Her parting words were really touching; she told me that even if we don’t get a chance to see one another again, she is excited she will be able to read my novels someday when I become famous. Although, this may never come true, it did make me feel good about myself.
After that first lesson on Monday I meet with an older gentleman. He is sixty years old and he had not been as frequent of a student as some and my lessons with him have been difficult. First, for the fact we do not have much in common and, second, because his English is not as advanced as some of the other students I work with. I often struggle to get through the entire hour lesson with this man, losing ideas of what we can discuss. You see, he is extremely, and I mean extremely interested in everything to do with nature. He is always talking to me about different types of plants, trees, flowers, anything which grows for the most part. Me, on the other hand have very little interest in these topics. So, on many occasions we have had periodic moments of silence. But, these last two weeks we have found a very nice common interest. You see, even this 60 year old man has such a excitement to learn all types of new things and I discovered he had started a computer class at the school I teach at in Novy Bydzov. This is where we found our connection. He has been taking these classes, but he has been having a very difficult time with them. Last week, I actually taught him, and I know it is not exactly an English lesson, but I did speak to him about it in English, how to send emails. It was funny having him sit at one computer in the Matrix and send me emails while I sat on my laptop and sent emails back. This week he told me about how his computer instructor had tried to teach the class about Microsoft Office; PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. Well, this week we spent the lesson with me showing him how he can use Excel to organize his garden. He has a large garden and I showed him how, with Excel, he could organize all his plants, flowers, and such. We even created an Excel spreadsheet together. We did it on my laptop and I emailed it to him. I hope he is able to open it and continue to work with. He seemed very excited as I showed him how we could input data about every variety of plant and flower he had in his garden. And I might just have a little right to maintain my sexist view in regards to gift giving because he did not have a gift for me at the end of our lesson. I know this will come off as completely cheesy, but it is gift enough to be able to help someone of an age, especially in a place like Novy Bydzov, who is striving to become more educated.

My last lesson of the night is with two women and we had decided to meet at the pizzeria in town for our lesson. The lesson went great as usual. Both of these women are far better at English than they will ever give themselves credit for. We discuss all types of issues. We have talked about politics, world culture, as just a couple of topics we have touched on. The majority of our time has seemed to be dedicated to the schools in the Czech Republic and particularly the schools in Novy Bydzov. As one of the women in the pair is a teacher at the other primary school in Novy Bydzov and the other woman has a son who attends the same school. It has been very interesting to listen to the comparisons I have heard between the two schools, as I have found out they are somewhat rival schools. My curiosity was limited to the fact that there were actually two different primary schools, schools for children from the age 6 to 16 within the same town and that town only having a population of roughly ten thousand people. But, both of the women feel the separate schools are for the better and when I assert my view that it might be a good idea to mix the schools, have the younger students at one school while the older ones are at the other. You must realize these two schools are less than a football field away from one another. Each time I suggest the idea it is somewhat scoffed at as these two women think the competition between the two schools is more productive than if they were combined.
Anyway, with our last lesson together very little changed we still discussed the school issues, but it was also nice to hear about their plans for the summer. However, one thing baffled me. The woman whose idea it was to meet at the pizza place did not even eat. I was under the assumption we the idea was suggested we would be sitting around talking as we shared some pizza. It was not to be. They did, however, before I got up to leave give me a present. This goes back to my sexist point, but I must make it again. From the women I had so far had my final lessons I had received gifts, but not from the men. Well, this gift also brought forth an awkward moment for myself as I noticed the packaging of the present they had got me. It was the same packaging of the pen the woman I had met earlier on in the day had gave me. Low and behold, these two women had also bought a pen for me. When I was opening the present I tried to conceal the fact I knew what I was getting as best as I could, I am not very good at that though. I did my best as I opened the box. I was expecting to see the identical present inside and, yes, it was a pen, but it was a whole different type of pen and I was able to show appreciate with the fullest of my abilities because I had not received identical presents. Although, I had received pens from both parties, they were completely different styles of pens and I was truly excited to receive this other type of pen as well. I believe the women wanted to continue our discussion, but I had told Andrea I would be one Skype at a certain time so we could get a chance to speak, a perfect way to end the day. I can believe in less than 24 hours I will be back with her baring any delays. Luckily, I am sitting at a wooden table.

On Tuesday I had three lessons as well, but before I get into those three lessons let me tell you about how my afternoon started. All of the English-speaking teachers at my school decided they would like to meet at the Matrix for a goodbye drink. Now, in their minds they had expected to have a glass of champagne with me. They had some idea of my dislike for alcohol, but they had no idea how avidly I was opposed to it. They we taken aback when I told them I did not even eat deserts if they had any type of liquor in them. Despite my objections, one of the teachers, in Czech, ordered four glasses of champagne. Including one for me, now, you would think I would be able to be courteous and think this one little glass of champagne, but I can’t. For some reason, this is a very hard concept for people to grasp; I will not drink any alcohol. So, as they persisted, I lifted my glass of champagne with them and as all of them took a drink I simply lifted the glass to me lips, let the champagne hit my closed lips, and set the glass down. The glass sat on the table the rest of our time together completely full as they emptied theirs. I do think I may have offended one of the women at the table by not drinking, but it is not something I do. So, if she was mad, I feel bad, but there is nothing I can or should I say, will, do in those situations to please people. I am not going to go against my convictions to make another person happy. Beside this uncomfortable moment, the discussion we had was wonderful. They asked me all types of questions and I in turn asked them questions. It was very interesting to discover how these women had learnt English. All of them had begun in primary school, but after primary school had let their English fall to the wayside and then when they had got older they had just rediscovered a passion for English and devoted many hours to study and taking courses when they had already reached an age when most people have made the decision they no longer need to learn anything new. And again, continuing with the same theme, these women gave me gifts. They gave me a couple of traditional Czech gingerbread cookies and one, Helena, the teacher whom I have built the closest relationship, gave me a beautiful picture book of all of the surrounding areas in the Czech Republic. The book is strictly devoted to their region of the country, which is rather astounding as I looked the pictures and thought of the size of the Czech Republic. It is such a small nature, yet it contains so much beauty. Anyone who visits the Czech Republic and is only able to limit their visit to Prague is missing out on a world of beauty. Lucky for me the women, the teachers from my school decided to break up the party at about 4:00, we had met at 3:15, and I had told a girl I had been giving lessons to that I would meet her at 4:30. With that thought, I did not want to be the one to have to tell these ladies that I needed to leave their group. So, it all worked out for the better and I met the young lady I have been giving lessons to periodically right on time at 4:30.
This young woman is advanced way beyond her years. If I were able to be the decider of who is and who isn’t a genius, she would definitely fall into the genius category. I am not sure if I have shared too much about her, I know have I written about her difficulties dealing with anxiety and that she is being home schooled for the moment, but I don’t think I have ever shared any of the stories, which show off her genius. First, I want to write about a story which happened about a month ago. Well, this young woman is completely devoted to the game of chess. She goes to chess camps, she plays in chess tournaments, and she even is going to be an official for an international chess tournament this summer. Anyhow, let me tell the story. So, we were having a little difficulty discovery new topics to discuss and I have been trying to learn the game of chess because I have a computer program on my computer. Well, this computer program, for me, is nearly impossible to beat. I think I have played upwards to 200 games and won six. My idea was to have this girl attempt to teach me some of the intricate parts of chess. So, I opened my computer and asked if she would play a game against the computer, which I could never beat. I was awestruck. She started playing the match against the computer. She was explaining to me why she made each move she did, but the problem, she only ended up making about five moves before she had defeated this impossible computer program. It was funny to me, because she laughed and talked about how stupid this computer was, this computer that had dominated me and still to this day dominates me. The second instance of her brilliance came to me during the last meeting we had together. We began discussing the racial issue in the Czech Republic between; I guess you would say original Czech people, white people, and a group of minorities called Romas. Well, I have spoke with several people about this issue and I have bitten my tongue more than I wish to remember regarding the racist found in Novy Bydzov. However, as I discussed the topic with this young lady, only 17 years old, I was glimmer of hope for the future generations of young people. She explained to me all about her point of view of the Romas. She told me she had written a paper on the Romas history and since her paper had held a whole new perspective. She talked to me about how Romas are the exact same as everyone else. Further, talking about her understanding that Romas were not given the same opportunities as the opposite side of the population because that is how history had dictated it. The Romas had never been given a fair shake, so to say, in the Czech Republic or in any other Eastern European nation where they migrated from India and it was because of this that she believed it was very hard to escape the cycle, which has been continuing for way too long. Finding a young woman with such a brilliant, open mind in such a remote place in the whole was fantastic, she will never be forgotten. I believe she will go on to do great things in the Czech Republic and the world. I really am hopeful she will someday be able to find someone to help her with her issues with anxiety. I completely know how she feels and to have such high levels of anxiety can be crippling. I do think she will work through it though and I hope my encouragement at least rubbed off a little.

My last lesson of the evening was with another individual I am truly in awe of; she is 27 years old and has had so many life experiences already. Her outlook on life is something to be mirrored. The only disappointing aspect of our lessons together is that I did not meet her until second half of my stay in the Czech Republic. She has a profound outlook on life and is probably one of the most generous people I have ever met in my life. Our conversations have always enlightened me, made me think deeper about subjects than I had ever before. I do not want to go on and on about how much our lessons together have meant to me, me I am sure learning just as much as herself, because I would like to share a little about how we ended our last meeting together. As I wrote she is so generous, she brought me an entire bag of presents. Including Czech chocolates, which were gone that night, treats for Ernie, she even thought of Andrea and gave me presents to give to her when I see her. She has never even met Andrea, but told me that the way I spoke about her made her have no doubts that she was a beautiful person. Now, this last part I am going to write is hard for me because I always want to seem as though I am thick skinned and tough, but she nearly brought me to tears as we departed from one another. She told me that beside her boyfriend I was the first person she had ever met in her life with a pure heart. That she could see in me something special, something that she had only seen once before, and that was in her boyfriend. I am not good a receiving compliments and I was at a complete lose of words. She spoke to me as though I had personally given her hope in life. She went further to say that she knew I would be a great man one day. I could not take the compliments and I was completely shocked. I do try hard to be a good person every day, but the way in which she put her words made it sound as though I would change the world. I will be forever grateful for her kind words. Plus, all the presents she gave me doesn’t hurt either.

That was the end of my lessons for the day, but there is another meeting with a friend I had that night which will forever stay with me. I had promised one of my friends I would come over to show him a few more things on the turntables. He is younger than me. Not a whole lot younger, but he is only 23. In spite of the fact he invited me over to go on his turntables; I think he had other thoughts in mind. When I arrived at his apartment we did mess around with his turntables a while, but then, as I was tired, I told him I needed to go home. He asked me to stick around for a little to talk. It was at that point he started speaking to me about his life. He expressed that he wasn’t satisfied with his life and living in Novy Bydzov. He explained to me he greater ambitions in life. He wants to travel and see the world. He wants to break away from the traditional mold he has found in Novy Bydzov, where people are born there, start families there, and live out their lives there. After he explained all this he turned to me for advice. I really did feel honored that he would look at me as someone who could give him the answers he was looking for. I don’t know if I gave him the best advice, but I tried. I spoke to him about how he has to be his own man and not allow outside influences determine his future. I remember one phrase I used while speaking with him, I said, “Don’t think that you will do things you want in life. Know you will do the things you want in life.” It is also very difficult for him in particular because he does come from such a small town. The influences many times in small towns are not the best, you find people who are satisfied, and more than that, happy with their lives living in a small town and sometimes those people frown upon people they have grown up with for having the ambitions to live said small town. It seems to me that often is the case that people who have found themselves stuck in a small town would like to keep as many people stuck in their position right by their side. I told my friend, “His true friends will support him whatever he decides to do.” It is a lot like my friends, I know who my true friends are because although they may joke sometimes about my always leaving the Detroit area as soon as I get back they are nothing, but my true friends again and show me support. My friend from Novy Bydzov even ended up walking back to my apartment with me; he wanted to continue to talk and give me a present. So, maybe I am wrong about the sexist idea I had.

As I left my friend and walked upstairs to my apartment on my last night in Novy Bydzov I realized what an amazing, life-altering experience I have been blessed with. I cannot wait to get home to all the blessing I have been given back in the US, Andrea, Ernie, my parents, my friends, my family, and the opportunity to go to Graduate School in the Fall, but I would not give up a moment I had here in the Czech Republic. All of the hard times that fell upon Andrea and I pale in comparison to what we each got out of this adventure. I do not want to speak for Andrea, but she may not see it now, but I am sure when we are old, wrinkled together, she will talk to me about the experience of a lifetime she had in the Czech Republic.

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 20, 2010

June 20, 2010

The sun setting on me on my last weekend day in Novy Bydzov was hidden behind the gloomy clouds to the east. On this Sunday I possessed just enough energy to even notice the sun was leaving me and leaving with only three more days here. Overall, the day was pretty dull. However, I did spend the morning once again helping my friend dig his trench for his foundation to the wall he was building. The digging went a lot smoother today; the earth was much weaker in the area we had to dig today. After finishing the dig his girlfriend made us lunch. Before we started digging she and he had told me they were preparing lunch for me and this lead to me being distracted during much of our work efforts. For those who don’t know me all that well, I am an extremely picky eater and I mean extremely, there are probably far more foods I won’t eat then I will. Anyhow, the majority of the time I was digging I was trying to think of different excuses as to why I would not eat the food she had prepared. I was a guest in their house, she was cooking for me to thank me for my help with the work at the house, and I didn’t want to come off rude. However, there really are some foods I really cannot eat, like onions. I was lucky though. When we had finish we went inside for lunch and very thoughtfully my friend’s girlfriend had remember from the time we went with them to Kutna Hora I was a very picky eater. She had prepared a very simple, delicious meal. It was simply chicken in some sort of sauce, no vegetables, and rice. I even had seconds.

After we finished eating we moved over to the couch and started watching a World Cup match. Slovakia was playing. I really was exhausted and I wanted my friend to drive me home, but I didn’t know how to say it. As we watched the game I think I feel asleep at least a couple times, sitting straight up, I don’t think they noticed though. When halftime of the match came I finally worked up the nerve to ask him to drive me back to my apartment. Some people may ask why I would wear down my body and spend my last weekend helping a friend work around his house? And to me the answer is right there in the question. He was a good friend to me while I have been here in the Czech Republic and that it is all the incentive I needed to tell him I would help. The two home cooked meals didn’t hurt either.

Back at my apartment I was left with no plans of doing anything the rest of the day. So, I decided to start my packing. As I packed, pulling down all the maps Andrea and I have collected from our adventures, stuffing all the recycling, I have collected and hid away in a closet for the last four months, into garbage bags, and putting some of my clothes away in my suitcase, I watched Pineapple Express for about the fifth time. I have to thank Mike for that. While he was visiting he was able to transfer the movies he had on his IPod onto my computer and it has been a great source of entertainment.

After watching the movie and doing as much packing as I could do for the day I headed up to the Matrix to check my internet and call Andrea. It was nice. We actually got a chance to speak on Skype for a couple of minutes and I got to see her and Ernie. I think the funniest part is, and I know this is going to make me look really bad, but whenever Andrea tells Ernie that she is talking to Daddy, Ernie starts looking around the room for me. And whenever he hears my voice over the computer he looks for me. It’s incredibly cheesy, but it I thought it was nice. It funny I never thought I would get as attached to a dog as I have, but I can’t wait to see him. I write this not to take away anything from how much I miss Andrea, she looks straight into the camera when I speak to her and she doesn’t get confused at all. It will be less than a week until I see Andrea in New York and I think I can hold out. I just can’t believe it will be so soon it feels like it was just days ago I was dropping her off at the airport in Prague and writing my first entry in this series.

I didn’t stay up at the Matrix too long. I ran into another friend I have made while staying here, John, the friend who I have been showing a few things on the turntables. He invited me over to play on his turntables, but I was just too sore and tired. I declined and just went home where I watched yet another movie in bed. This time I watched another movie complimentary of Mike, but quite the opposite. I watched Slumdog Millionaire, I think this was only my third time watching this one, great movie though. By the time it was finished the sun was gone and eyes would not stay open any longer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 19, 2010

June 19, 2010

I sit at the Matrix on my last Saturday night here in the Czech Republic and the sun slowly moves between the clouds in the distance and into the horizon. This is the second time today I have found myself here at the Matrix today, the second time I have found myself writing an entry. You see, today has been one of the most uneventful days since I have been living here.

I awoke about nine this morning to the soreness of the day before. I had a day planned full of things to do. I had spoke with several of the individuals I give private lessons and they were supposed to meet me at the Matrix to get a chance to meet one another. My plan was to introduce them all. I wanted them to meet so they could, maybe, start meeting on a weekly basis to continue practicing their English.
However, it was one of their text messages that woke me up. The first of two to inform me they could not make the meeting I had planned for noon for some reason or another. So, I through the plan out the window I informed the others who were planning on coming that the meeting was cancelled due to lack of number of people.

Before the planned meeting I had plans to play with other teachers at the school in football. Not actually football, but kind of like foosball. Each person is attached to pole, which runs from one side of the blown up arena to the other. All the people inside actually looked the same as little foosball players, unable to move without the other person attached to same pole moving with them. Well, I had assumed it would be teachers playing against students, I was wrong. They had set it up so there were enough teachers that we played a match against each other. I really am at a loss, knowing I had never played football in my life, but for reason my team, filled with the most competitive teachers at the school put me at goalie. I was a mess. I let in six goals and the score of the match was 6-1 before we switched sides and I told my team I shouldn’t be playing goalie. After switching sides I did end up scoring a goal, which surprised me very much. Despite the goal my team lost the match 7-5. And I had given up 6 of those 7 goals. I don’t think those competitive teachers were too happy with me. Even though they did try to put smiles on their faces I could tell they were not happy we had lost. This whole soccer match, or whatever you would call it, only lasted about ten minutes and it was that that was the most exciting part of my day.

My plans for after my cancelled meeting fell through as well. I think I have mentioned the friend who bought turntables and has been asking me to help, as much as I can, teach him the little I do know about mixing records. Well, he had told me he really wanted me to come over today and show him more things on the turntables, but as it turns out him and his girlfriend went out drinking last night and drank a little too much. I ran into the friend at the Matrix and he told me he was in no shape to go on his turntables. He said his girlfriend felt horrible and was planning on going back to sleep. So, there was no way we could go on his turntables.

With all those plans I had thought it would be a pretty eventful last Saturday. It turned out being me doing laundry and watching the movie Ray. This may turn out to be a blessing in disguise because I talked to my friend who I was helping dig a drench for the foundation of his wall and he asked me to come over again tomorrow to finish the job. More good exercise, I just hope the blister I got on my hand doesn’t end up bothering me too much. And working with my friend tomorrow it will bring me to the close of my last weekend in the Czech Republic for now. I really hope to one day return to this little city, it truly has been a blessing to spend 10 months here.

June 18, 2010

June 18, 2010

So, I have neglected to write to tell you about my last full week of school. I really have let my mission of writing a post for every day fall through, and for that I apologize. However, you didn’t miss much during the week; for the most part it was a typical week. It is now Saturday morning and let me get you caught up with what has been happening here in Novy Bydzov.

I will start by letting you know how my week with my classes went. For the most part all my classes ran smoothly. It has been a really easy week. I can’t remember if I told you, but what I am doing for the final weeks of my classes is having the students write down information about themselves then I have or am going to record them on the little video recorder my parents bought me. Well, for my first three days, Monday- Wednesday this is what my classes amounted to. I informed my classes they would have to write as much information as they would like to share and that during their final class I would be recording them. It worked out that I found out I would not be having certain classes again next week, like my course at the other school I teach at in Novy Bydzov and nearly all my classes on what was supposed to be my final day on Wednesday, and for these particular classes I decided to make them write me goodbye letters. Some classes took them seriously and share very nice sentiments and nice information about themselves. Other classes, one in particular, didn’t take writing me seriously whatsoever. I had one boy in one of my 9th grade classes simply write I Love You in magic marker all across his letter. It was frustrating at first, but then as I thought about it, it was rather funny and I hope I will get a chance to share with many you who read these letters.

As for what were my final classes on Thursday, to Smidary and Chlumec, the students had already written their messages and the recording of them went perfectly at the school in Smidary. I think I got about 77 or so students on video. Some of the videos are hilarious. I will make sure to show them to as many people as I possibly can. My teaching at Smidary did not end on a good note though. Let me explain, the school was to pay me in cash to make it easier for me as far being money back to the States. Well, I walked down to the secretary and she gave me my pay and I noticed my pay was about half of what it was supposed to be for the month. I have to miss next week’s class because I am flying back Thursday morning. So, with that said, I taught 3 out of the 4 weeks I was supposed to teach in the month of June. But, when I tried to explain to the Headmaster and the Assistant Headmaster through the English teacher as an interpreter I believed I should at least be paid for the three weeks in the month of June I had taught they told me I would only receive half of my pay because my last week of classes was halfway through the month. Therefore, instead of being paid for the actual amount of classes I taught I was being paid based on the period of time I taught for that month. I know my explanation is not the best, but what it comes down to is the school in Smidary screwed me on my payment for the month of June. Anyway, I told Helena on Friday about this situation she was infuriated, she has been so helpful over these 10 months here in the Czech Republic. She went straight to the secretary in the main school I teach in and I guess the secretary called the school in Smidary, the school in Smidary refused to pay what I was due, and the secretary got in a huge argument with the school and told the school in Smidary that they were cutting all ties with the school and they would never help them out again and that there was no way they would ever send another one of the Native-English speakers to their school again. I feel bad I was the start of this drama, but I was not happy I had been wronged by the school in Smidary. The most tragic part of the situation, and this not to said to come off arrogant, but you could see in all the videos I was able to capture from the students in Smidary how much they truly enjoyed having a Native-English speaker at their school. I can’t even count how many of the students came up to me and asked me to pose in a picture with them. On that last day students were even coming up to me and asking me to sign their student pictures, some students even bought up to me blank sheets of paper asking me to sign the blank slips. It was really funny and it is a shame it was all ruined over a little money.

That is all I will write about my final day in Smidary. As for my final day in Chlumec, the students actually showed up, all seven of them, this is the class which for the last two weeks no students have been showing up. Anyway, I had these seven students do the same activity I had been doing with my other classes, they wrote for about a half hour then I recorded them. Although some of the students didn’t take it very seriously the videos still turned out rather funny. For this class I wrote on the board the subjects they should touch on in their speeches like school, family, hobbies, and their city. Probably, what I thought was the funniest part of this was that under school I gave them a little suggestion as to what to write. I wrote on the board, “Mr. Corbin is my favorite teacher. He is so funny and clever.” Not all the students added it to their speeches, but some did and hearing them repeat the words I wrote was funny regardless of whether they meant it or not.

As for my private lessons for the week they all went the same as they always have. All of my conversations went very well and it is nice that I have been able to see an improvement in all of the adults I have been giving private lessons.

Now, let me touch just a bit on what I did yesterday. Well, first all of my classes in Novy Bydzov all got cancelled due to the fact the school was having an open house where all the student’s parents could come into the school and see all types of exhibits the students had put together. They had exhibits for students who excel in physics, chemistry, biology, music, dance, sports, and many more subjects. I actually walked through the school, despite them not asking me to do an English exhibit, before I attempted to head to Nechanice for my final lesson in that school. I was highly disappointed though. I had really enjoyed my classes in Nechanice, it was somewhat of a hassle getting there and back for just one forty-five minute class, but the students and teachers I worked with were so friendly and had such a passion for learning English. My disappointment came in the fact that the bus which took me to Nechanice never came, I waited at the bus stop for nearly forty minutes, but it never came. No bus meant I had to have my school in Novy Bydzov call Nechanice and cancel my final class, I really would have liked to get those students on the video camera, and they worked so hard on their speeches.

With no classes all Friday I went back to my apartment and fell asleep for just a half-hour before I was to meet the friend I give lessons to. I had told him I would help him at his house. I met him at three o’clock and we went to his house, which is in the next village over. The plan as far as I was aware was to help him dig a trench for the foundation of a wall he was building. He called it a fence, but when you are using 50 pound cinder blocks to build a “fence,” it is a wall as far as I am concerned. Anyway, the trench had to be three-feet deep. I will never again in my life think of three-feet as a short distance. Even before we started digging though, when we arrived there was a truck with all sorts of building material I had to help him unload. The unloading of the truck took about an hour, it was not hard work, but it was then time to start digging this trench. Like I wrote it had to be three-feet deep, but it had to also be about fifteen-feet long. We were lucky it was an overcast day and not hot, we were in for some of the hardest work I can remember. The dirt we dug in was not dirt at all; it turned out to be all extremely hard clay. We worked at it for about three hours and I was actually surprised at the amount of the trench we were able to finish. We got about 70 percent of the work done. I was completely exhausted, with blisters on my hands, my back sore and my arms hurting, but I told him I come back on Sunday to help him finish. I am not sure yet if he is going to take me up on my offer, but in the end hard really is good exercise and it made me feel nice helping out a friend. And after we finished for the day his girlfriend made us dinner. She made us hot dogs and eggs. She put mustard on my plate and I was very close to asking for a new plate, with my excessive dislike of mustard, but I didn’t though. I sucked it up and just made sure none of my food came anywhere near the mustard. Once dinner was finished we just sat around, watched some television, and talked for awhile.

It was about ten o’clock by the time they dropped me off at my apartment. I was completely worn down and I am still feeling it today a little. I felt bad, but I didn’t get a chance to speak with Andrea once that day. Luckily, Andrea called me on my cell phone. It was nice to talk to her for a bit even though my exhaustion would not allow me to hold an intelligible conversation. I just really can’t believe it is less than a week until I see her again in New York City, I can’t wait to see all my family.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 13, 2010

June 13, 2010

I was exhausted on Sunday and although I had my friend from elementary school coming into Hradec to meet up I was in no shape to give him the best of tours, not that Hradec has a great deal to show off. It is a beautiful city, but as far as landmarks go there were but a few which Andrea and I found. Andrea may even argue with me that the city of Hradec is a beautiful city. It was not only the walk the day before which had worn me down. On top of my body just being plain out sore from the walk, my legs were burnt to a nice crisp and it was my legs being the shade of a cherry tomato which limited my sleep the night before. I just could fall asleep with the pain I felt in my legs. No other body part had been burnt. You see, as I have wrote, I did buy sun tan lotion. However, half way through my trip, in Nechanice, where from there I knew I would be walking in the sun rather than the shade as I had been; I tried to apply the lotion. The problem, I got the lotion onto my arms, face, neck, and shoulders, but when I tried to put some on my legs the bottle broke. It was a spray bottle; I tried my hardest to get the lotion out another way to no avail.

All of that wrote, I come to what I actually did on Sunday. I was going to walk with my friend from elementary school all about the city. I was going to show him the few sites then I was going to show him the two beautiful parks which lay just outside the town square. That didn’t quite happen though.

I met my old friend at the train station and walked with him to a café, which was on the way to the old town square. At the café we stopped to have a coffee and a little bite to eat. We got a chance to sit and talk for nearly an hour. It was then I noticed my phone was about to run out of battery and I had spoke with the guy I had met the night before and one of my friends from Hradec about meeting up to watch some of the World Cup. I did not have my charger on me in Hradec. So, I actually walked with my old friend back to the apartment I had stayed at. I wanted to use my computer to call the people I had made plans with, this was at about 12:30, I had met my old friend at the train station just a little after eleven.

I did leave out one of the most interesting parts of the day. When I woke up from a horrible sleep I went into the living room of the apartment to use my computer and I found my friend’s roommate, I had met him before, but I never before had had the chance to speak with him. He offered me some coffee and we sat down across from each other and had a great conversation. I was taken off guard when he told me his family was originally from Iran. I have met people from the Middle East, but never have I met someone from a country with such infamous ties to America. I was astounded as he told me his perspective of the nation he had been born in, all about its government, its own history, and further, its history with the US. It was an enlightening conversation.

It was back to that apartment where my old friend and I headed. Luckily, we were able to walk past one of the major sites of the city while traveling to the apartment. I showed my old friend the old castle wall. The wall has been renovated, but still many of the elements of it remain and it is beautiful to see. Past the old city wall we entered my friend’s apartment and I was able to connect with the two people I had made plans to meet. We decided to meet at two o’clock to watch the first World Cup match of the day.

After setting the plans and only having an hour or so before we were all to meet I took my old friend on a short tour of the old town square. I turned out very uneventful and I think my old friend was thoroughly unimpressed. After the short walk around the town square he and I sat down outside at the sports bar we were supposed to meet my other friends. It was not long after sitting that my friend from Hradec, who is actually from Wales via Pakistan, joined us. This friend I have made while living over here was perfect for today. He is very friendly and can carry on a conversation with anyone. I think if you sat Fidel Castro in front him he would smile and share a nice word with him. Anyhow, with the three of us now there, just waiting on the new friend I had made from Scotland. We all sat outside for a while until the match started. My friend from Hradec and old friend seemed to get along well. I knew it would be next to impossible they wouldn’t with the type of attitude my friend from Hradec carries with him.

After sitting inside and watching the match for about 10 minutes my new friend from Scotland joined the party. We all just sat and watched the game. There was very little need for me to exert any energy which I am grateful for, I was the only one at the table that knew everyone, and everyone else at the table had never met one another. And yet, they got along as if they had known each other for ages. I just sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the game and conversation. It was an interesting day bringing together these three people.

I cut the day short though. My fatigue had the best of me and after the first match I told everyone I needed to head back to Novy Bydzov. And after the first match, my old friend and I walked back to the train station where I left him and headed to the bus station.

The bus ride added a little extra humor into the day. I knew we were on the bus, which takes the long route back to Novy Bydzov, I took it knowing the bus schedule and that it even though it was a longer ride it would get me back home the quickest. Two ladies who got on the bus with me were not aware of this fact. They did not know we would be taking a very roundabout way of getting to Novy Bydzov. It was actually rather funny because at one point the bus seemed to be just going in circles and one of the aforementioned ladies got out of her seat. She ended up getting in a shouting match with the bus driver. I could not understand what was being said between them, but from their her body movements and her facial expressions I think she was angrily giving the bus driver directions to Novy Bydzov as the bus driver tried to calmly explain he was heading to Novy Bydzov, but that she was on a bus which did not have a direct route there. Well, we did get there and you could tell the bus driver was happy to have this particular ride done and over with.

I was even happier to be back in my town where I went straight home, washed up, ate, and fell asleep with a quickest I had never had before. My legs were feeling better.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 12, 2010

June 12, 2010

Not sure really where to begin to tell you about my adventures of Saturday. So, I will begin from my very first half recollection of the day. I was awoken to a phone call from Andrea. I had told her I was going to waking at about seven in the morning to begin my walk to Hradec Kralove. However, the night before I decided to sleep a little later as I stayed up to watch a World Cup match and didn’t get to sleep quite as early as I had wanted. Anyway, my alarm was set to go off at 8:30 and Andrea called me about 7:30 figuring I would be awake. She had just come in the door from a night out on the town with her Mother. My wake-up call, instead of being the alarm of my phone, was Andrea telling me all about her and her Mother’s adventures through Birmingham and beyond. It was definitely nice hearing from her and listening to her stories, but I was still half asleep and wasn’t listening nor comprehending what she was telling me very well. She ended up getting frustrated with me and my lack of an ability to hold a conversation. We hung up with each other, I tried to fall back asleep, but could not, and that was the beginning of what would probably become one of my biggest adventures since I have been in the Czech Republic.

My plan, to walk from my city, Novy Bydzov, to the city Andrea had taught in, Hradec Kralove, the distance 30 kilometers or 17.1 miles according to Google maps. Now, the reasoning for me attempting this long walk, I am not completely figured out. It definitely was not to save the two US dollars it would have cost me to take the bus to Hradec Kralove. I do have some vague ideas why I was to attempt the journey. First, the exercise, second, to attempt to do something I would have never before and never again will do, third, to prove to myself I could complete the walk, fourth, and this was not even a big determining factor, but between Novy Bydzov and Hradec Kralove in a village called Hardec, there is a castle, which I have been told repeatedly I must see. The reason I didn’t put this high on my list, I have seen numerous castles while I have been in Europe and one more, in a small village, wasn’t really something that demanded my seeing.

Well, after I was now wide awake and ready to undertake this challenge, I made sure I ate a hearty breakfast of cereal with a banana sliced into it, I packed my backpack, trying to pack as lightly as possible and then headed out the door.

(Let me add a little side note before I continue. The reason I was going to Hradec Kralove, not in particular walking, but just going there was I had made a few friends with Andrea while she was staying there and I wanted to say goodbye to them. The fault of that idea came to me on Thursday night though. As I received a phone call from one of the friends I was planning on meeting up with and he had informed me that neither he nor any of the other friends I had made were going to be in town for the weekend. I could not cancel my trip though. I had, also, my plans to meet an old, old friend who just happened to be travelling through Eastern Europe. The person I was supposed to meet on Sunday I had not really had a conversation with since I had been in Elementary school. We had been the best of friends when we were in the fourth or fifth grade, but then through middle school and high school completely parted from one another. We graduated with one another, but were not friends and barely from my recollection spoke. I did set plans with him to meet in Hradec Kralove and I believe he had actually gone out of his way to meet. So, with those plans I had to be in Hradec Kralove. Then, seemingly out of nowhere a friend of a friend of Andrea’s, who has been living in Hradec Kralove called me and asked if I wanted to meet to watch the USA/England World Cup match on Saturday. So, despite my original plans of seeing the friends I made falling through I could not go back on my going to Hradec Kralove.)

Well, back to the story of the walk, with my back to my apartment door and high hopes I went to the local grocery store, filled my backpack with healthy snacks and fruit, which I placed next to the large amount of water I had packed. I also bought some suntan lotion, the weather forecast for the day was around 90 degrees and sunny. With all my essentials together I made my way out of Novy Bydzov and headed to one of the towns I teach in, Nechanice, which was supposed to be about the half way mark of my walk. The first part of the walk to Nechanice was mostly shaded, but still took a great deal of energy. When I reached Nechanice I nearly gave up. I had made one detour along the way to try to visit one of the friends I had made while living in Novy Bydzov. He lives in Prasek, a tiny village, about three miles from Novy Bydzov. He wasn’t home though and I had walked probably an extra half mile or so to visit him. So, when I arrived in Nechanice which is about a total of eight or nine miles from Novy Bydzov, even though I walked mostly in the shade, I was exhausted. I knew buses between Novy Bydzov and Hradec Kralove frequently traveled through Nechanice. I nearly called it quits and got on one of those buses, but then I saw the sign telling me the castle I wanted to see was only two kilometer south of the city. I had sat down at restaurant to make my decision and I had got a second wind after sitting for about twenty minutes.

This is where my stupidity and the stupidity of the signs I saw turned my adventure upside down. First, as for my stupidity, I didn’t bring a map whatsoever, through my vain idea I have an incomparable sense of direction, I thought I could make the whole trip without a map. As for the stupidity of the sign, the sign was a simple arrow pointing south, reading Hardec. So, without the map I just followed the sign. So, you do not get the idea I completely blame the sign, Hardec was to the south. However, there are two roads leaving Nechanice to the south. One goes straight south, the one I took, then another, which I did not see or know about left Nechanice and went to the southeast toward Hardec and the castle. Without going into it too much further I walked along the road I thought was the right one for a long while. I am horrible at gauging distances. So, I was constantly under the impression I would be walking up to the castle at any minute. I was dead wrong and after walking way too far and passing through a few small villages I found that I must had made a wrong turn somewhere. Luckily, in the village I had landed myself there was an information map, which allowed me discover I had just walked probably five or six miles out of my way. I sat down at the bus stop and looked at the bus schedule figuring it was time to throw in the towel. I had walked about 12 miles or so and the sun at this point was beating down on me.

The bus schedule was no help, I was in the tiniest of villages and no buses were planned on coming through for another couple of hours. I was forced to continue my journey. So, I rechecked the map they had posted and tried to think of what to do. Seeing that Hardec, the place with the castle was the biggest village within walking distance I made the decision to not give up on seeing the castle. I planned out my route on the map, lifted my now heavier and heavier backpack on my shoulders and headed out. I was to head straight east until I hit a road, which turned north and would take me to Hardec. This is where the second huge foul up in my plan occurred. As the roads are not clearly marked and I knew from the map I would have to walk through the forest a little. I made my turn back north down the wrong road. As I made the turn it seemed to me as the right turn. I was definitely not a paved road or anything of the like, but it did have car tracks running down it. So, I supposed it was the right road. I was dead wrong and hit a dead end after walking into the forest about a mile. It was at this point I had to make the decision to turn around; head back south or continue in the direction, north, which I knew Hardec was located. I decided to create my own path through the woods figuring it would lead me faster to Hardec then if I backtracked again. This was not the wisest of decisions.

My created path hit an even bigger dead end. (And let me tell you as I walked through the woods I was completely frightened. I was continuously hearing gunfire. My only thought was that there were hunters in the forest beside myself. Whenever I heard I shot I would verve in the opposite direction taking me even further out of my way.) As for this big dead end I hit at last, they were bushes about my height. However, over these bushes I saw a village and people across a field. I made the decision to brave through the bushes, which I immediately discovered were covered in pickers, tearing my legs up more and more with each step. To add to my legs being ravaged after I got through these plants I found a creak which I had not noticed. It was not like I had to go swimming, but I did have to run through this creak, the water coming up to my knees. On the other side of the creak I had to climb a steep slope and then I made my way out of the forest into the field. I can’t begin to imagine what I looked like to the people working across this field. I was completely filthy and I was making my way out of the middle of the woods.

I approached the men to try to discover one of them with the ability to give me directions to Hardec or, with hope, tell me I was in Hardec, the men were friendly, but none of them could do anything for me. I kept repeating “Hardec” and they kept looking at me with confusion in their eyes. Luckily, for me, after about a minute of our interaction, which was going nowhere, a boy of about 14 rode up on his bike. He spoke a very little English and offered to show me the way to Hardec. I had come up out of the forest in some small village nearly two miles south of Hardec. The rode alongside of me for awhile, or at least until I was able to relay to him I felt comfortable with which direction I needed to go.

I ended up walking the two miles on a dirt road with no shade whatsoever and landed in Hardec. I sat down at the bus stop in Hardec and the gun shots I had heard earlier were getting louder and much more frequent. They even started to be followed by the sounds of canons. It was then I realized they were doing one of the Czech Republic’s traditional reenactments of the battle between the Prussian army and the Turkish-Austrian army. The castle was less than a mile to the west of me, but the bus schedule said a bus to Hradec would be arriving any minute. I wanted to see the castle, but I was not going to miss that bus. The bus never came. I sat at that bus stop for nearly half hour. And after the disappointment of the bus not coming and realizing I would have to continue my walk there was no way I was walking away from the direction I needed to head to see the castle. It would have been nice to say I had seen the castle, but as I wrote before it wasn’t really high on my reasons for making the walk in the first place, I have seen a lot of castles and it just didn’t seem worth it.

I walked on east. Passing through little village after little village and each I checked the bus schedule to see if a bus would be stopping anytime soon to take me to Hradec Kralove. I was not so lucky.

Eventually after walking another 10-12 miles I made it to a peak outside of Hradec Kralove and I could see the entire city. After all I had gone through I felt a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment. I made way down toward the city and the first bus stop I saw for city buses I sat down. I had to wait a little over a half hour for the bus, but I could not make the final walk to the city’s center. I am a little disappointed I did not make the walk all the way to the center of Hradec Kralove, but after the detours and the walk through the forest, I was at point where I felt I could feel proud.

As for the rest of the day, it was somewhat of a blur do to the exhaustion I felt. I did meet up with the friend of a friend, his name was Graham, he was from Scotland and he is an aspiring author like me. We actually had great conversations as we watched the USA surprisingly tie England in their World Cup match. After the match though, I had nothing left. I parted ways with him and went to bed at the apartment of a friend I had made while Andrea had been in living in Hradec Kralove. The friend wasn’t in town, but had left his keys for me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 11, 2010

June 11, 2010

Friday didn’t hold any events of major significance. I had my classes work on their speeches, which I am going to record. As for the class I had trouble with the week before, all the students who I particularly had a tough time and lost my temper with were out on a school trip. All of my classes went smoothly and I was finished for the day about one-thirty. I forget to mention, amongst those students who were on a school trip also comprise all of the students who attend my basketball course in the morning. So, I had arrived at the school only to find out the class was cancelled. I sat in the school doing nothing until the rest of the students arrive at the normal time of 7:55 rather than the time of 6:55 when I usually start my basketball course. As I said it was a rather uneventful day.

After I returned from my class in Nechanice I headed back to my apartment, ate lunch, and took a very short nap because I wanted to be upon at the Matrix for the start of the first match of the World Cup. It started at 4 o’clock and I was surprised it was just I and the bartender who were actually excited to watch the kick-off of the World Cup. I would have thought the bar would be packed with Europe being one of the places in the world where soccer is the most popular sports. However, it was just he and I for that first match.

After the first match I headed to play basketball. Once again I played rather horribly, but had fun. My team got crushed. Any after a while the game just became silly as people began to just not care as the score became so uneven. But like I said, despite everything I had fun, and I got some good exercise. It was nothing compared to the exercise I had planned for the next day though. You will hear about that adventure in my next post. Anyway, after basketball I headed back up to the Matrix to watch the final World Cup match of the day. Once again, I was surprised.
The Matrix was packed, but no one seemed to have any interest in the match beside myself and the same bartender who I had watched the earlier match with. I must have looked rather silly as I sat at the table directly in front of the television and my eyes did not leave the game. I am not sure, but I do have a hint that the people of the Czech Republic are a little sour because their country did not make the World Cup this year.

After the match it was back to my apartment to get to sleep early to prepare for my big adventure the next day. I had made the decision to attempt to walk from Novy Bydzov, the city I primarily teach in, to Hradec Kralove, the city Andrea used to teach in, it is a distance of just over 17 miles according to Google maps and the weather predicted for Saturday was nearly 90 degrees and sunny. Probably, not the smartest of ideas, but something I had set my mind on and was going to try to do.

June 10, 2010

June 10, 2010

The last light of the sun creating a pink cotton candy of the underbelly of the clouds in the distance has brought an end to my day. A day as strange as the idea of how delicious those clouds look and this day started as the same day the week before had begun. I have already mentioned how my ordinary travels to the city and school of Smidary, I ride the bus with several of my students, I will not go through the details again of the travels. I will write though, the irregularities of the week before repeated.

I once again found my arrival in Smidary was with just one student when I have been used to having at least 15 or so. Once again I made the same walk to the school with apprehension and slight bit of annoyance pertaining to me, maybe, being left in the dark once again. The same as the week before though I walked into the school and started to see some of my students, this time when I walked into the teacher’s lounge I was thankfully met by the one English-speaking teacher in the school. She was very apologetic, but she nor had anyone informed me the reverse of the week before was happening at the school. Both the sixth and ninth classes were out on a school trip and I was not to have my first two lessons. This meant I had arrived in Smidary, the smallest village I teach in, at 7:30 in the morning and I wasn’t to have my first class until 10:45. I was at a complete loss as to what I could do to occupy my time for the next three hours. I had already taken care of all my lesson plans for the day and using the computer for three straight hours to look at the internet did not sound appealing.

Although the size of the village is near nothing, I had never actually walked anywhere beside from the bus stop to the school or from the school to the train station, neither path leads me through the interior of the village. Therefore, I made my decision to spend the free time I had to discover what I could of this village I had been teaching the children of for nearly ten months.

As I left the school I was highly fearful of finding anything worth my time and being stuck to do nothing, but ponder my existence, after a short walk, sitting in the teacher’s lounge by myself in silence. This melancholy spirit had been brought upon me after I had inquired with the English-speaking teacher as to what I could find if I went walking about the village and she had shrugged her shoulders, she was doubtful I could find anything of interest. What was nice? I set out on my walk with no expectations, no thoughts of finding anything even of the slightest of interest. And I guess if you think about it, if you have no expectations, you can find no disappointment.

I did know there was an old church in the center of the village, and although, I had been told it was nothing to be seen, it was in its direction I headed. I had a lot of time on my hands; I decided to take a very round-about way of getting to the church. I was simply amazed at the buildings this village had. All the teachers at the school must be overly exposed to these times of buildings because where they found no interest, I found myself looking at one building for nearly twenty minutes. I could not decipher what it had been constructed for and it had definitely been neglected. It looked to me as though it could have been the home of some type of lord or duchess from back in the times of feudality. I am probably wrong, but with the fact I am reading all these English authors who write of the old English times of titles, like dukes, lords, and duchess’.

I found more and more these same type of houses throughout the village, obviously overlooked by the inhabitants of the village as nothing more than average homes, but for me coming from where I have come from I was simply amazed by their intricate, beauty. I only knew the people of Smidary realized the history they possess in their city. The church, which I was warned about as being dull, was far from it. It was definitely run down, the façade was in definite need of repair, but it was really a church which was unlike I have seen on this trip. For nothing more than the fact that it had been so neglected yet it still held a humble magnificence.

After my walk I sat down in a park read a while and before I knew it, it was time to head back to my classes. Who knew I could entertain myself in village the size of Smidary, but I did and I was completely overwhelmed by what this tiny village held. Back at the school I had my two classes, which I having them prepare speeches I am going to record with my little video camera to bring back home. It is a little funny because I am asking them to tell me about themselves, where they live, what are their favorite subjects, and more trivial things, which follow the same theme. But, then, I suggest to them to include in their speech what I great teacher I have been. The funny thing, as I collected their prepared speeches, is I found them all writing nearly the exact same thing about me, “Mr. Corbin is the best teacher.” It is going to be great to have on video. Maybe I can put together a movie of sorts and some it at job interviews. Just a video a whole bunch of Czech children repeatedly referring to me as the “best teacher,” I don’t need to mention how much I actually coached the children.

After Simdary, I headed back to Novy Bydzov to eat a little lunch before I head to Chlumec for my final class of the day. I took the bus again to Chlumec and turning the corner to my school I found not one of my students waiting for me to start class. Every one of the students had decided to skip their English lesson. I went up and spoke with the assistant headmaster and she told me through Google translate to just go home and that she would make some phone calls to ensure the students show up for their final class. This is the strangest part of the situation however. I walked across to the bus stop and right at the bus stop is a little bar I always sit in to wait for the bus. The problem this time is I got too caught up in a game of chess on my computer and I missed my bus. I was left with the decision of either waiting another hour and half in that bar for the next bus or trying to walk the five miles back to Novy Bydzov.

I choose the latter. However, after making my walk for nearly a mile a car pulled up next to me. It was supposedly a guy and his girlfriend who lived in my city. They asked me if I wanted a ride and without the apprehension I probably should have had, I jumped into the car. It turned out this guy I had never noticed before said, he spoke decent English, “He had seen me at the Matrix.” Well, this guys kindest got me back to Novy Bydzov in a hurry, which was a wonderful surprise as I really wasn’t looking forward to continuing the rest of the walk.

When I got back to Novy Bydzov I had made plans with one of my friends from the city to try to teach him some more about DJing. I did that for about an hour then headed home for dinner and bed. It was probably the weirdest day I have had so far in relation to my teaching. It is these type of days I cherish though, they give me memories I will not be soon to forget.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 9, 2010

June 9, 2010

The sun has fleeted away into the distance, the day has gone by like so many before it, and my worries of Andrea have been washed away. I am able to rest peacefully tonight. Today I awoke Andrea with a phone call. Her mother woke her to the new day, for me the day nearly passed; I had already finished my last class of the day. To her voice despite its quietness and it not yet being fully there, still drowned by sleep, was refreshing for she had was in new spirits. I could hear these new spirits even through the drowsiness. She spoke happily, and as I listened to her whisper to Ernie who I could picture laying next her all curled up, also, still half asleep, I was refreshed by the news shared. Two of the things which had caused her much anxiety the day before had already been resolved. While there are things involving our move to Chicago, so I can begin my Master’s degree, which still hang in balance, I believe everything will come together. I will continue with my optimism.

I even got another chance to speak with Andrea later on in the evening right before I started my one lesson of the day. And yet another one of the matters, which had caused her alarm the night before, through just a matter of hours, had been resolved for the better. I truly have been blessed in this life. I have been bestowed with so many gifts from the people I love around me and I will be forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given. I only, now, hope I am strong enough to use those blessings I speak of to make Andrea happy in every sense of the word.

As for my classes today, I started with the first of my two conversation lessons at 6:55 this morning. I know I am not the best of teachers at times and I should be chastised for what I am doing for these final couple of weeks with this particular conversation course, but to defend myself, these classes have gone bonkers. With summer rapidly approaching I don’t think I could hold their attention longer than 30 seconds at a time. Anyway, with giving my excuse, and you still being the judge, I showing my conversation class Spiderman 3, the worst part about it is, I choose this particular movie because my parents sent me a copy of the first Spiderman movie and I have yet to see the third one. So, my desire to watch the third installment of the trilogy weighed on my decision. Let me; however, add one more bit of fact to defend myself. As I worked in a Mexican restaurant for nearly five years and all of those five working closely with the kitchen staff, which was all from either Mexico or Guatemala, I learned that they, the kitchen staff, had learned the majority of their English from watching television and films with the subtitles on. I will end my slight embarrassing telling of that conversation class at that.

I had yet another class cancelled because the ninth class is on their school trip and the other two ran rather smoothly. One I had work on a work sheet, interviewing one another, as I heard complaints about every minute about how we should go outside. For the next class I had, I did take them outside. They are working on dialogues within their textbook. I had a plan of assigning them all roles then having them perform something like a play. However, as I was exiting the building I ran into another teacher who was with about five or six of the ninth graders who had not gone on the school trip. This teacher pressed me to take these students along with. I did, as I could hardly have a decent argument with him. First, because he is the size of a truck and second because he wouldn’t have understood a word I said and so there I was, with too many students. I did take them to the park and I did get them to perform the dialogue from the book for about half of the class length, but then with the disturbances from the kids I had been given and a general discontent for doing any type of school work everything fell apart. The first half of class ended with me, not at all frustrated, but simply telling them to enjoy the sun. I simply could not manage attempting to get my class to perform a dialogue as I had these other, older students, under my care. Trying to watch them, make sure they didn’t walk off somewhere and directing my students proved too much.

My last class of the day, another conversation course, had a test I had been preparing them for weeks for and as I should have known; maybe a few of them were actually prepared to take the test. The rest of them pleaded with me to not give the test and then whined through the entirety of it. After receiving the tests back I could see why they had moaned so loudly. I had given them nearly three weeks to prepare for the test, given the directions in Czech. Therefore, I do not pity them. I will, however, be very liberal when grading these tests.

That is about the account of the whole of my day. Nothing out of the ordinary to write about, but always happy to be able to write with a clearer mind now I know Andrea is feeling a little more optimistic about our future.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 8, 2010

June 8, 2010

I write tonight as the sun fades once again from me, not in the most enviable of moods. I write tonight with the renewed hardness of this time spent away from the person I love and plan to spend the rest of my life supporting to my fullest capacity. I miss Andrea with a pain so deep in my heart it affects my mind and allows my mind to do little else than think of her. Think of her and wish I could be by her side to comfort her, to share with her the words I have on my mind, to simply sit with her.

Today seemed bright as I awoke to the new day. I was already aware one of my classes had been cancelled due to the fact the ninth class is on some sort of trip. The day even continued like it had began, all my classes behaved moderately well, which is the most I can wish for these days with the sun shining and all the children restless be out of school.

The first lesson of the day went extremely well, it is with a younger girl, she is only 17 years old. Despite her age, her English surpasses many whom I teach. She, however, has very serious anxiety issues, of which I can relate. She has not been able to attend school for the entire year and tells me she wishes never to return. The school, for this year because of her problems difficulties of attending while she feels such anxiety has allowed her to go through this school year working from home. She is one of the brightest young girls I have ever met. I especially enjoy our lessons, we are able to discuss issues and at times we attempt to discuss her anxiety. I am able to relay to her my thoughts and feelings in relation to her own because I have stood in her shoes before. I, too, have dealt with high anxiety. I probably was never at the point where she is, however, the pressure of today’s society is far greater for a teenager. I can see it on a daily basis.

What were once seen as unique and special differences between one person and next have become the oddities of the one person and the point of ridicule for the next. At times I am deeply saddened to see the path of society, our world, may be taking, but I also must, and must never forget, to be optimistic. Just because I have a less than positive view what may become of the children in the next generations to come does not mean I or you, or someone will do something to change it.

I, also, had another lesson with my friend. We just simply sit and chat. Although, our lessons are simple, from the day I first met him I have seen a drastic improvement in his English. I feel a sense of pride in that improvement.
However, my heart will not let my mind drift too far away from Andrea. I spoke with her this evening and she was not in greatest of moods. It crushes me with the weight of a sledgehammer knowing there is little I can do to relieve her anxieties at the moment. She is worried about our future. Not us together, but us carving out a life within this world. The pressures of money and success, whatever one deems to define success as, weighs heavily on her shoulders and I must sit in my quiet apartment alone and wait till the next day when I may her voice sounding cheerful again.
I do know her voice will once again ring happily and I will make sure of that, but tonight I try to contemplate how I will do that as I sit in agony.

Yes, I know I skipped a day, it was a Monday and nothing extraordinary happened. My classes were good, my lessons went well, and when I spoke with Andrea she had nothing but high hopes for our move to Chicago, but today that is gone and to go back to try to write like today didn’t happen would be impossible for me. So, I hope you will forgive my lack of detail, but it probably would have been an entry drier than beef jerky if I had tried to write it tonight before I wrote what had actually happened today.