my english not good;

25 03 2011

I am fluent in English, I promise you. However, the past few days have made me question my abilities to speak the only language that I know and understand. Let’s begin with the difference in dialects and the true variety among nations.

I know people that speak bloody brilliant English from the Netherlands, Ireland and all over England. Now, anyone who has ever visited these countries, or interacted with someone from them, must have questioned at some point whether both parties were speaking the same language. I mean honestly, they are speaking “proper” English, yet at the same time one from the states could be lost in translation.

Our first thirty minutes of class was completely in Czech. No joke. Not a word of English, and somehow I understand and can inform a local how I’m feeling. Everyday discussion is challenging; I love it. Grocery shopping is nearly impossible and at the same time loads of fun. Every time I come home from the store I have at least one item that was not what I thought it was. Multiple tries later, once I realized I had to individually label everything, I was actually able to buy some produce.

After the beginning section of our first day lacking English, Dan revealed to us our first lesson: what it’s like to not understand your teacher. Ironically enough, we all learned. The million dollar question, that every person asked back in the states, was suddenly answered. Conversing with people who don’t understand any aspect of your language isn’t impossible. Both parties can work together through common gestures, motions, and expressions to get a point across.

All english controversies aside, I taught my first class today. The session went well considering that basically none of the students were further along than the elementary level. It’s definitely going to be an exciting and interesting upcoming month trying to balance exploring Prague and taking the course.

Below are some photos I took the other morning while I was walking through the main part of town before class.

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The glass is always half full

20 03 2011

Seven hours of wonderful sleep lets me begin my first true day in Prague. Soon after waking, we decide to fetch some groceries. Simple enough; however I soon found out that there are some differences in this process from that of the states.

After noticing the people in front of us in the checkout, we realize that we must purchase our shopping bags and that handing the currency to the cashier is not the acceptable method.  Failing to adapt quickly enough, the cashier softly utters Czech to me, and I respond with a well thought out deer in headlights stare.

After handing me my change coupled with a unpleasant look, I head back home and have breakfast. A little later Scott and I decide to go for a run to see the area.

Running is a great way to explore. One can understand neighborhoods and their intricacies quickly and thoroughly. Unfortunately, we ran away from downtown Prague, and instead into the industrial district.

Scott and I realize that we are running through probably one of Prague’s more, shall I say less, less than desirable neighborhoods. Give it time; fifteen minutes and we will be where we should. Thats what we thought at least. Before long we were deeper into the dilapidated industrial slum and eventually we turned back and went to our flat.

After an hour or so of complete depression and realizing that I just moved across the world to live in a city that might not be what I had hoped, I meet the rest of our colleagues. Immediately, my mood shifts, and I realize that everything will be fine as we make our way downtown. Upon arriving, I finally see the Prague everyone raves about. Gorgeous architecture rich with history is every way I can see. Slowly, we stroll down the narrow streets into vast courtyards bustling with people. Streets twist and bend into each other. It is truly amazing, and I have absolutely no idea where I am.

 

As the day comes to an end, our guide gives her best and leaves. The group splits and I head off with nine people to grab a bite to eat. We find a underground shop and grab some pizza and beer. After chatting for a while we hop on the local transit and head back closer to home to grab another round. It was a fun day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow and beginning the course.





Georgia, no not the country

20 03 2011
First things first; I’m in Prague, with a roof over my head and I’m safe. After settling into a small middle seat for the flight, I starting talking with the gentleman to my right. He asked me the common conversation starter, “Where are you from?” I responded by stating that I grew up in Georgia. I thought that since we were leaving Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, that he would know that I meant the state… you know inside of America. He then started speaking to me in what I can only guess to be a Slavic language. After explaining the him that I was not from eastern Europe, we jumped into the rest of a normal getting to know you conversation in English this time. It was a good flight; and after I had a good laugh with the British girl on the other side after my water bottle exploded I managed to get a few hours of sleep. 

Hours after landing in London, just as I was about to fall asleep I see Scott randomly wondering around the airport. We meet up have a few good laughs and catch a the quick flight to Prague. Upon landing we go through, what some would consider to be, a rather lax form of customs.

The border guard notices that I am from Georgia (he actually got the country right) and asked if I knew Atlanta. “Coke?” Sure, Coke – Atlanta is the home of Coke I exclaim!! He mentions that he worked in Atlanta for about nine months. After chatting for a minute or two he stamps my passport and sends me on my way without asking a question.

Now I know I am not what some would call the world traveller, however getting into the Czech Republic was infinitely easier than entering Canada and the USA. In fact, I am going to bet that once I actually visit other counties, I will still feel that the Czech Republic is one of the most lax countries in the world as far as entry is concerned. Why? I don’t know, maybe Canadians don’t like Coca-Cola or maybe I just got lucky after he chewed out the Asian gentleman in front of me.

On a side note, border control officers seem to know just about every language. It’s absolutely insane and they usually can guess which one to start speaking with you. He spoke English to me before I flashed my passport. 

Once through customs we jump in a van and are driven to the place we will be residing for the next month. With rent paid and an apartment found, a nice young woman by the name of Martina offered to show Scott and myself around the town.

After finding the grocery store, subway and the phone store we head out grab a bite to eat. We locate a random eatery a few blocks away from where we are staying. After consuming a few half liters of Pilsner Urquell and eating some traditional Czech dumplings with beef, Scott and I continue questioning her about every aspect of the Czech Republic. From culture and religion, to learning a little about the Velvet Revolution and where to find the local climbing gym or swimming pool. It was great, and about two hours later and tasting the local plum brandy called Slivovitz, we called it a night and ended our first evening in Prague.