Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vaclav Havel

The day after Vaclav Havel died, I walked through Vaclavske Naměsti. The statue of Sv. Vaclav (Saint Wenceslas) at the top of the square was surrounded by a memorial. There were hundreds of candles. Every time a candle blew out, someone relit it. Every candle that burned out seemed to be replaced by another. People gathered in silence to say goodbye to the man who helped bring this country into the Western world and the 21st century. I saw elderly men crying quietly as they lit candles.

I have been reminded a few times that if it were not for him, we would not be here. I'm not sure where I would be right now, however, this place is where I have done so much of my growing up. I am so thankful for this opportunity.

A week later, the square is full of candles, though most in the center have long burnt out. More are added to the edges every minute. Parents stand with their children and try to explain to them the importance of a great man. And everywhere, there are hearts.
"Truth and love must prevail over hatred and lies"-Vaclav Havel (1936-2011)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Markets in Germany

A few years ago, I went to Dresden for their Christmas market. This year, we went to Munich and Nuremberg. It was a really quick trip, just three days and two nights. On a preschool teacher's salary, this was my big trip for the next few months. Being in Southern Germany was pretty exciting. It was much more western than what I have become accustomed to. The markets were beautiful. In Munich, the Christmas market was small but the Christmas atmosphere there could not be beat. In front of beautiful, ornate buildings (and I say this as a resident of Prague), we drank mulled wine and listened to a live choir who sang from a balcony. In Nuremberg, the market was huge! They specialized in these bizarre figurines made out of nuts and dried fruit with faces glued on them. I cannot say I understood their appeal. However, I did find an entire stand of Ostheimer toys! I gazed longingly at all of the figures. "My school will be full of these," I declared. Someday, someday. Nuremberg also had a section of the market dedicated to their sister Christmas markets from various cities around the world including Glasgow, Atlanta, and Prague. Each city had a stall with Christmas wares and treats. I even got a hot toddy from Glassgow! I may have come home a little lighter in the wallet, nevertheless, it was wonderful to have a Christmas mini-break.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmastime at School

It seems that I haven't posted in nearly half a year! Whoops.

This school year, I am teaching the 3-year-olds again. Unfortunately, we have what I so often refer to as "an enrollment problem"--which is to say that I have two students. One of them comes three times a week, the other one four. This means that my time is spread between my own class, the other preschool classes, and our after-school program to which I've been assigned. Two afternoons a week, I am supposed to entertain and educate a group of 2-4 second graders. There's a reason I teach preschool and not second grade. This is not my passion. However, I am looking to just get through the next year so that I can move back to America with three full years of preschool experience and a good reference under my belt. While I enjoy writing the curriculum for the seven-year-olds and seeing their results, the teaching can be a struggle.

My first project this year was to teach them why they are learning English. They are at the age when they realize it's harder to speak English than Czech, so why bother? They haven't yet been in a situation where English was helpful so they just rebel. I asked them to list countries where English is spoken. They couldn't come up with more than five. I asked them if they thought there were more than 10 countries where English is a major language. They were certain there couldn't be. So, I showed them a list of countries where English is a national language (de jure or de facto). We picked ten countries with the highest percentage of English speakers per capita and made a book about them. We used atlases and other books to research the people, climate, animals, and traditions. We compared Irish dance and Highland dance on Youtube. As I write all of this, I feel so proud of my students and of myself. However, while teaching it, I could not wait for it to be over.

Our next project was to write letters to an American second grade class. I wanted them to explain what Christmas was like in the Czech Republic. I had them do watercolor paintings to illustrate their letters. They all wanted to paint Christmas trees. It was kind of a bust. However, I got two of them to work together to make this timeline of Christmas. They dictated to me what they did on each day and made these little pictures. Again, I wonder if the ends justifies the means because this is pretty great.

Aside from teaching, my life has had a few changes. In September, I moved into a flop house where I had only half a window as I was in one side of a room divided by sheetrock. The kitchen had no hot water. There were people moving in and out every week, not to mention the number of couchsurfers my landlord invited over without telling us. The final straw was his refusal to put a lock on my door. He pocketed half of my security deposit and I went on my merry way. In October, I moved into my current flat with my girlfriend. We live in a fifth-floor walk-up which means a lot of stairs. Otherwise, I love the place. It's the top floor with vaulted ceilings--which are still absurdly high and have skylights! Nothing like the vaulted ceilings where I lived when I was twenty. It's got a loft-esque quality to it with exposed beams and a mostly open floor plan. The last tenants put up a wall (of high quality) to separate off part of the living room/dining room area into a second bedroom which we use mostly for clothes and guests.

And now, it's time for me to get back to Christmas preparations. I hope to take pictures of our fat little tree and all the crafty decorations we've put up!