kid1(Vsetín, Zlinsky Kraj, Czech Republic)  It’s 6.30am on a Sunday. and I’m waiting for the coffee to brew…I guess watching it doesn’t make it go faster. It is overcast and the temp is 32 F and foggy. but my apartment is toasty with steam radiators in every room. The weather over all has been chilly the last two weeks so I’m thinking it will be an early winter. The local church on the hill must have a love affair with their bells because they go off all night long every 15 minutes. To announce their Masses, they ring them for about ten minutes straight.  I’ve yet to see young people at mass. It’s mostly old ladies and a few men and not very many of them either. I’m sure the homilies are terrific but I don’t have a clue.

I am slowly falling into the routine of having classes everyday. My largest class is 10 students who have just graduated from high school and and need extra English for an exam at the end of the year (they go to class 3 hours a day 5 days a week with a bunch of different teachers) and my smallest classes are with one student. Most of my classes are 90 minutes with a smattering of 1 hour classes thrown in, the latter mostly for beginners. Some of the students are just beginning to get my humor and others just stare at me blankly. I have 50 year olds down to 10 year olds. I have a few classes that start at 7 am which makes the day very long. Monday through Thursday, I end my day at 8 pm. I force myself to cook dinner when I get home those nights even though I just want to take a shower and fall into bed. I walk to school every day which is about a quarter mile away. I don’t have a TV and don’t miss it. I read a lot of stories on-line. And…I’ve started to take my shoes off when I get home and put on “house slippers” in the traditional Czech way.
Life here is getting more comfortable. Except for the language, this could be Menlo Park or Stanford Shopping center! The Czech phrase I use several times a day is “Nerozumím Česky” which means “I don’t understand Czech” and and I smile while they shake their head and then find someone who understands English. I live in central Vsetin within walking distance of bakeries, super markets, the town square, park and stuff. It’s very easy to pop out of the apartment walk across the street and get butter or bread or candy or to the butcher shop for Czech-style bacon which they slice for you while you wait. And those days I may have to take the bus at the ass-crack of dawn to another Czech town for a class, the bus/train station is 2 minutes away. The dollar goes a long way here which is nice and it’s a good thing I have learned to live simply over the years. I’ve made some friends with the Czech teachers as well as two of the native English speakers, a woman from Scotland and a man from Canada. Because of our schedules I rarely see them during the school week so we sometimes get together on Friday’s or Saturdays for coffee. Since the Canadian speaks passable Czech, I have met many people he knows in pubs and on the street who have great senses of humor and are patient with my lack of knowledge of the language. Friday night we went to a pub by the hockey stadium and they were having music. It was all Irish and Country tunes sung in Czech. They also had line dancing. It was a hoot and I didn’t feel like the foreigner.
The people I work with are incredibly generous with their time. They had a washing machine installed in my bathroom and another teacher’s husband came by on Friday to install a proper shower over the tub so I don’t have to sit in the tub with the shower wand which was really really awkward. We hung a shower curtain and I am good to go. Another friend lent me a printer so I can print out flash cards and worksheets for the kid classes at home in my underwear without having to walk up to school to do it (and I would have to put on pants). [Perhaps that is an image you don’t want burned into your brain.] Sometimes it is just the simple things that make my life easier. About twice a month I do big shopping at the super market with the owner and his little boy. He drives me to the market and we have our lists and off we go. Yesterday I bought a mop and some new sheets for my duvet…yes very European.
I have professionals in my single classes, CEO’s of their companies as well as moms who just want to speak better. Most, but not all, the classes are team taught. Once or twice with a Czech English teacher and once or twice with a native speaker (me or someone else). We have to input our lesson plans into the computer before our classes and immediately update after our classes so we know what the other did and don’t repeat stuff. This is good for me because I tend to get overwhelmed with stuff and it forces me to be on top of things. Sometimes it is very confusing with several different books that we use. One funny thing happened last Thursday with my post high school kids, my desk faces them and on the wall behind them is a portrait of Elizabeth II. I had been making comments about how difficult it was to look at her everyday, so when I went upstairs to Xerox some worksheets, the kids took her picture down and didn’t tell me until I noticed the empty space. I suggested we replace it with Frank Zappa. We had a good laugh.
Tomorrow starts another week with new adventures and some new people.
and so it goes…