I've decided to stop being a miserable b****** and let you lovely people know how I'm doing and start blogging again every now and then to let you know what I'm up to and how life in the Czech Republic is going! I'm jsut going to give you some bits and bosb about the flat n school and the city a bit first then more within the next week about what ive been up to so far.
Soooo where to start? The flat I think! So I'm going to upload some pics of the flat that I took this evening. That probably wasn't the best idea hacing just cooked and not cleaned since i left for Christmas but oh well- you cna see how I really live then. Not that there's much to clean as you will see! So I live in a small flat inside a 3 storey house on a small residential road not far from the centre in an area called Zabovresky (Zha-bov-zhresky)- which I've been told by many amused English speaking Czechs here translates as 'frog screams'. Something to do with it having once been marshland apparently :S. It takes about 7 mins on the tram so the location is really good but it;s not very big or pretty. Since the days of communism not all the buildings are tall and identical anymore to accommodate lots of people and there are some around the area that are what I can only describe as beautiful. When I first arrive dhere, people told me to look up in order to see the city. It's true, looking at eye level, you see a mass of glass fronted windows with adverts and other paraphernalia inside but looking up at the architecture above street level is a treat for the eye. I'll take some pics for you some time.
So back to the flat. It's quite nicely done, even though I have a sneaky suspicion that due to the fact I was arriving imminently in September, my room wasnt quite as finished as they'd hoped. Good job I don't have to worry about the state of the walls after I leave if thgey couldnt even bebothered to finish painting! I've got a small kitchen with 2 hobs, a sink, a fridge that's as deep as a margarine packet and a rickety cupboard. I am now as of Sunday, the proud owner of a microwave, toaster and an electirc kettle (everyone say oooooh) but there isnt room for them in the kitchen so they are currently homed in the 'hall'. The bedroom is simple but a bed and a desk is all i need anyway i suppose. I bought a rug and a lamp to make it a bit more homely and that's as far as my interior decoration skills get me. There's also a small bathroom with a shower where the bottom fills up no matter how often you plunge it and the seal has broken on the head making it more like having a shower under s waterfall than a normal shower but hey-ho clean water that I can swallow without dying like in China i suppose. Silver lingin and all that.
I was living with Tracy (who I'll tell you more about later) but she had the brains to move out into a flat of her own with an oven. And a bath. a living room. Well a fully functioning flat really. Means I get oven cooked food every now and then so it works for me. We have a little ongoing battle with our neighbours however. We don't see them much but they have some issues with the washing machine that's in the basement. Apparently it;s not OK for me to take their clothes out when they've been damply festering in the machine over the weekend to put mine in, but it is OK for them to take mine out when they need to. Hmmm.
So anyway onto school. It's a 2 floor building in the centre of town (which is handt actually and not far from the main train/tram station). There's a proper staff room, proper resources and proper management. Well to some degree after some difficulties at the start of the year and some mystery surrounding one fo the owners and her health at the moment. There're 2 bars below the school perfectly located for a quick drink(ssssss) on friday afternoon after the wekely staff meeting. Czech life seems to surround the drinking of beer, which is fine by me. You never see it all end in vomiting, brawls or police either here.
At the moment I currently teacha multitude of business english classes which means I'm sent out to companies to teach them business related english with some general english thrown in every now and then. For the most part I quite like this. I have no lower elvel speakers so I can converse and have a lugh with most of my classes. I teach at Infosys, S and T (IT solutions company with the most talkative and cute older students I've ever met who are so enthusiastic it does make me smile in one of my 2 classes there), a 1-2-1 student at a car company called BS Auto and a company called ABB. This company you will hear me moaning about frequently I'm afraid. This company is a nightmare and is the grimmest place on the planet. Students are fairly nice but unreliable and travelling for an hour each way (particulary at 5am in the morning) is not something I can lie about and say I enjoy. I even refused another class there today because honestly, I don't think I could take another hour there.
I also teach a lovely 1-2-1 fluent lady who just wants to maintain here english. She makes me half a coffee every week cuz she knows I never drink a full cup and is the loveliest woman going. She also lives in avillage not far from my house called Jundrov which is really quiet and surrounded by trees and sits on the river so it's a nice walk on a winter monday morning to kick off my week.
Then there are my standard classes that I teach at the school. They are few and far between I admit because I wont teach kids so I get all the comany classes. I also teach a legal English class (that I hate purely because I've never felt so incompetent in my life but apparently Im the only person with an opening on my timetable so I'm stuck with it). I honestly go through every week hoping they don;t ask me anything cuz I have no idea how to answer. Half the time I don't even understand the definition for the term it's describing nevermind the term. I wonder if they're learning anything at all?
So teachers. There's a lack of natives actually. That's what they call the people who's first language is English. Does make me feel like an Indian sometimes when they say it. There's quite a big staff though.
Anette- DoS from Germany. Lived here for ages, got a kid and lives with a Czech actor.
Me, David (been here for bloody ages too), Seamus, Edward and Jack are contract teachers at the school. Edward is from Romania but lived in wales so not actually classed as native. There's also Lily-Anne (Scot) and Anthony (Aussie) who work at school but are freelance and come and go when they want. Theo (from London) is also a native at the school, but unfortunately has hodgkins lymphoma at the moment so is off work but we still see hime a lot. I'll post the link to his blog sometime. Charles is another older guy, who's had an interesting life and is a bit of a gem. He's one of those you always want on your pub quiz team cuz he knows a little bit about everything. He's my mentor as well which I am sooo grateful for.
Lots of Czech teachers who are fluent in English also teach at the school including a few I really get on with like Hana and Sarka who are really funny and so helpful. Pavla and Regina are the guru/legends/parts of furniture at school who've been teaching for years and years and know where everything is. Ask them where you cna find an exercize about the get passive and they'd pick out a dusty book from way back when with a brilliant exercise like it's old hat to them.
There's a bit of a love hate relationship going on with the office staff due to the fact that they're lovely but everytime you see thme you duck, cuz they're goin to ask you to do or for something you haven;t been able to do or can't do or don't have time for. I really would hate their job.
Then there's Tracey. My god she knows what she wants! She quit in the first 2 weeks to go freelance cuz she didnt like the raw deal the contract teachers get at the school. School wasn;t impressed and there's been a few issues but credit to her she knows what she wants and does it. She wasn't happy so she changed it. I wish I could be a bit braver like that. She's one of those people you never forget. She's done a PhD in ballistics and has worked in a variety of amazing jobs before quitting to stop getting bogged down in the rat race and moving to Vietnam to teach and travel. She's got a few stories I tell ya.
Ok, so the city. Well it's only a city cuz it;s got a cathedral but it's TINY. It makes it really easy to get around though- the transport system here is amazing- really efficient and reliable. If your tram breaks down a replacement bus is there within 15 mins. They run everyday and after 11pm every night a night bus system operates instead of the trams every half hour. Brilliant.
So there's the main square (that's actually not a square) called Namesti Svobody (Freedom Square) that's in the centre of the city. ther's lots of cobbled roads going off this with shops and bars and restaurants and what not but i'll show you more with pics next time. There are lots of openings off the street into corridors where you take stairs up or down into cellars that hide most of the city's goings-on i think. Lots of hidden pubs and shops and restaurants and things. I presume this is down to communism too but i don't quite know why.
As usual in CZ, there is castle overlooking the city. It's not your typical british castle nor your fairytale German looking ones, but very eastern european- more like a massive building with a wall round it and red slate roof. More next time.
Then there's the catherdral as you can see in the picture. You can see it from most places in the city and is quite striking due to the fact ot's quite gothic looking and doesn't quite fit with the city but is beautiful nonetheless. And massive when you actually stand next to it!
There's an ice hockey stadium jsut out of the centre too where the3 Brno Kometas play and who are actually pretty good. The few times I've been to watch I really enjoyed it and the atmosphere is great. There's a lot of season ticket holders I think, so they really get behind the team and supposrt them wholeheartedly.
I think the Czech life is quite simple. It's not very different to British culture really, apart from maybe laggin behind a few years. You can still smoke inside and there's a respect for the elderly i think. They ahve some strange customs like wearing shoe-slippers inside everywhere- even at work and pouring half your drink into a glass for you that I'm not entirely sure why they do.
The language is really difficult to learn adn although i havnet been able to go to my classes lately ive been doing my workbook and trying to teach myself. Chinese was by far easier though so i'm doubtful that's i'm going to be able to say much by june but at least i get by. I know food now so i don;t end up with meat anymore, seeing as the communist staple still hasnt disappeard since the velvet revolution of meat (usually pork) and potatoes. They have a fear of flavour I think but we've found a gem of a curry place in the city run by some sri lankan guys who like speaking english so its great. They also have a number of these pizza places where you go up to the window and order a (huge) slice for about 30 Kc which about a quid to eat while you're wandering. It's become a bit of a habit after my 8pm finished after work every night but I'm allowed a treat after a 12 hour day i think! It's great how cheap the food and drink is here. The tipping system fo rounding up is also good cuz it means you don't worry about spending a fortune on the tip at the end.
There's a big vietnamese population living here too. I can't remrember the full story but something to do with some conflict meant that Vietnam was in debt to Czech and therefore the government requested people be taken off the streets and sent here to work off their debt. There are second generation kids here now who have forgotten their roots and are Czechs now but even some still don't speak Czech or English and are isolated to their won communities.
So there we have it! I'll update more and add more photos from now on. I hope you're a bit more informed and I'll try to continue and update as often as I can. :)