Archive | September, 2010

Our new flat!!!

27 Sep

If I had to describe my new apartment in Karlovy Vary in three words I would say amazing, big, and empty.

My bedroom is seriously the biggest bedroom I’ve ever had in my life. Now if you knew me when I lived at Washington Blvd in Arlington two years ago this would be a meaningless statement because most walk-in closets are bigger than that room. Or if you were one of my 10 friends who saw my room last year in Huelva this room is easily three times that size. At some point I can take some measurements to give an idea of how big it is, but for now you’ll just have to trust me that it’s huge. And of course I would have the biggest room of my life when I have no furniture or “stuff” to fill it up… but c’est la vie, I’ll enjoy it anyways, even if I don’t have much to put in it.

view of my bedroom from the hallway

view of the room from the window


view from our front balcony

We also have two balconies: one that overlooks the main pedestrian street in the town, and a second one off the back of the apartment. A few nights last week we sat on the front balcony drinking beer and wine and watching the people walking on the street below. The only unfortunate part is that there is a sweets shop directly across the street and you can smell the “spa wafers” baking, which smell like pastries or cookies baking in the oven. This might not sound unfortunate but it makes you really hungry while you’re sitting there smelling it. Like I also mentioned in my post last week, there is a bar at the end of our street that plays rather loud 80s soft rock so that has provided the soundtrack to our nights on the balcony.

view from the back balcony off the kitchen

the kitchen

Our kitchen is brand-new with granite counter-tops, tons of cabinet space and a dishwasher (which isn’t something to take for granted here like we do in the States). Again, it’s unfortunate that we have tons of room in the kitchen and nothing to fill it up with. There are a lot of great shelves for plates and cups, but we’re limited to the sets that our landlord provided for us, which are nice, don’t get me wrong, but they fit in exactly one cabinet. We’re still waiting for our refrigerator (and washing machine!) to be installed, and once it is our kitchen will be complete. Until then, we’re eating out a lot, buying stuff that doesn’t have to be refrigerated, or if it does have to be refrigerated we’re trying to eat it all. It’s a very healthy lifestyle, as you can imagine.

the eat-in area of the kitchen

The only downside of the apartment is there is no living room or good common space (apart from the kitchen). But I will trade that for a really nice big bedroom, nice big kitchen, and nice bathroom. Oh! The bathroom! I almost forgot. It’s new, has good lighting, and, most importantly, a shower with doors and a hook to hang the shower head. (My bathroom last year in Huelva had all this stuff as well, but that was also what I would consider a nice bathroom for Europe).

the bathroom

From what we understand our landlord just took over the apartment in the past year and had everything redone and repainted. And we are now the first ones to be living in it–what luck! Our boss found the place for us, it turned our that the father of one of her good friends from primary school owns the apartment and was looking for renters. So now, here we are! Living next door to McDonald’s for the next year…

you can see the McDonald's next door from our balcony...

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Kebab Comparison: Spain 1, CR 0

27 Sep

I decided to start a category where I will rate things in the Czech Republic as compared to the same things in Spain.

Today’s challenge: Doner Kebab
Sidenote: Doner Kebab is not a “kebab” like most Americans would think of it (chunks of meat and veggies on a stick). Please see wikipedia’s Doner Kebab entry for further details.

Competitors:
Representing Spain we have “Welcome Doner Kebab” on Pablo Rada (a main street) in Huelva. It was my go-to kebab place last year.
And in the Czech Republic’s corner we have “Doner Kebab” on Dr. Davida Becherova street in the city center of Karlovy Vary.

Winner: “Welcome Doner Kebab” of Huelva. It is such a clear winner it’s unbelievable. For starters their sauces and toppings are better, fresher with a little more spice/taste to them. Also, they stay open later than 9pm (may not be a fair measure since Spanish people eat dinner later than do Czech people). I have eaten at the kebab place in Karlovy Vary twice and each experience was sub-par. The last time I got there shortly before they closed so they didn’t have most of the items on the menu available and no fries! What’s a doner kebab without the fries?? Terrible, that’s what. Also, my kebab wrap was cold by the time I got home and ate it (approximately 5 minutes later). I will probably give the Karlovy Vary kebab place one more chance (especially because we don’t have a refrigerator in our apartment yet), but I will definitely be longing for “Welcome Doner Kebab” while I’m eating it…

So what the czech am I doing??

22 Sep

So you may be asking yourself what, exactly, am I doing here? How did I end up in the Czech Republic? And why would I subject myself to that experience after I struggled so much of the time in a country where I moderately knew (or at least understood) the language???

I’m currently typing to you from my balcony (yes, our new apartment has a balcony! two, actually… more to come on the new place later) overlooking the main pedestrian shopping street of Karlovy Vary. It’s currently 8:39pm (my time, which is to say Central European Time) and there are a few people walking through the street here and there, but it’s overall quite quiet. There is a random bar at the end of the street that plays music loud enough that I can tell it’s some sort of 80s soft rock, but not loud enough so that I can differentiate between Steve Perry and Tina Turner. Oh wait, I can now definitively hear “Careless Whisper” by George Michael. I am not making that up. We’ve noticed that the street is still busy until about 8pm when people seem to head home. It’s a little chilly right now, but I feel fine in a fleece and my fingers aren’t getting numb typing so it’s not that cold. But in the mornings when I walk to work I can see my breath…

So anyways, back to the task at hand, what am I doing here? Not even two weeks ago I took a job with Wattsenglish, a company started and run by a Brit that specializes in teaching English to young and very young learners in the Czech Republic. One of the main draws was that it allowed me to come back to Europe and get a visa/my working papers. In the vast majority of European countries it’s nearly impossible for me as an American to get hired legally as an English teacher because no language school wants to sponsor an American for a work visa when they can hire a Brit with a European passport who already has the right to work in their country. Last year in Spain I had a student visa because my program technically paid me a “stipend” for participating in a language and cultural program and not a “salary.” But I guess the Czech Republic has some different standards with the requirements for working papers and residency, and Wattsenglish is willing to provide the paperwork for Americans to apply for their green card. So here I am legally working and living in Europe again.

coat of arms of Karlovy Vary

Another one of the reasons I decided to take the job was that I would get to travel to a lot of places that I wanted to get to last year and never did: Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Munich. And probably a ton more that I never even aspired to go to. It’s true that there is still a lot of Spain that I never got to see, but I feel like I will be back there again, in some capacity.

My teaching experience this year will be totally different. For any of you who talked to me last year or read the blog know that I worked in a high school in Huelva and I loved it. It was intimidating at first but I ended up really enjoying my experience there. This year I will be teaching kindergarten and primary school children. It’s a whole different world. I forgot that I would be regularly dealing with kids who are picking their noses and putting the plastic fake food in their mouths. Awesome. But I know it will be good experience for me, it will get me to work on being both a teacher and an entertainer and it will teach me load of new games and techniques (and silly songs – “Hello everyone, tra la la la laaa, Hello everyone, traaa la la la la la… I’ve been singing this pretty much all day).

My schedule is not so bad, granted I haven’t finished the first week yet so I may feel differently on Friday. Both Mondays and Fridays I work only 8-12 in our language center (our office) in Karlovy Vary, which is about a twelve minute walk from our apartment. Tuesdays I teach only kindergartens from 8am til almost 11am. Pretty sweet, no? These classes are in smaller towns outside of Karlovy Vary so I drive the company car to those schools (yep, six days into living here and I’m already tooling around in a tiny red Hyundai). Wednesdays I start late, but teach four primary classes of various levels from 12:45 until 4:30pm in Ostrov, a smaller town about 20 minutes from Karlovy Vary. I will be taking the bus there on Wednesdays because my roommate needs the car to go somewhere else. Thursdays I am in Ostrov again, teaching more of a mixture of primary school level again, but this time I have the car so I can drive myself there if I want. It will be a totally different experience for sure but hopefully one I will enjoy.

Another year abroad begins!

18 Sep

Everything happened so quickly with me applying for and getting this job so it’s still kind of hard to believe I’m already here. First impressions of being in the Czech Republic:
1. I can’t understand anything.
2. It’s going to be very cold.
3. I will probably be pale all year.
4. It’s beautiful and I think I’m going to really like it.

cute little town of Radosov

I had been here for 24 hours without seeing Prague (where I flew into) or Karlovy Vary (my town) so the first day was a little anticlimactic. My boss Zuzana picked me up from the airport and drove me to her house, where I’m staying until my apartment is ready. She lives in a really cute small village, Radosov, outside of Karlovy Vary. I crashed on the sofa bed about 30 minutes after arriving but woke up in the evening because my future/new roommate Jess was coming home. Her and I are staying at Zuzana’s for the next few days because our apartment is not yet furnished. The landlord was going to Ikea today (Saturday) to buy all of the furniture and then because it takes 45 hours to put together a dresser we’ll probably be moving in early next week. But I’m very excited to see the place, it’s on the main street of Karlovy Vary, a pedestrian street with lots of nice shops and pretty architecture and Jess said it’s really nice and has big rooms.

I am just anxious to move in and get settled. I remember that feeling from last year as well, having to lug my unwieldy baggage from the hotel in Sevilla, to my home stay with my senora Julia, then to a hotel in Huelva until I finally found my home in Maria’s apartment. At least this time my luggage was lighter (learned that lesson) and, more importantly, I was totally spared the stress of having to find a place to live within five days of arriving. Though that would have been impossible because I know no Czech…

only 6,481 km to New York!!

So on the first night Jess, her friend Jon who is visiting from England, and I went to this little pub down the road from Zuzana’s house for some beer and food. Of course in my stress of picking up my luggage and waiting anxiously to meet Zuzana (and see if I was going to be picked up or if this was some scam that was going to leave me high and dry in Prague) I forgot to go to an ATM in the airport. So I had no money and found myself already bumming off my new roommie, but luckily she is really nice and didn’t mind, and I suppose I’ll have the next nine months to pay her back. Also luckily Jess and Jon had been to the restaurant the night before so they knew what some of the dishes were. But it was still humorous ordering and asking for the bill and such since none of us speaks the language. The little woman who runs the place was really nice and sat down and tried to teach us the word for bill (which of course I forget, I know it started with a “p” though!). Jess and I both got chicken with mushrooms served with a side of croquettes. It was a really tasty and filling meal, but if this meal is any indication of what kind of food I’m in for this year I’m going to have to do a lot of walking and exercising…

Our classes start on Monday and we’ll be getting our final schedules tomorrow (Sunday). Because I missed the orientation in Prague I have a stack of books and materials to familiarize myself with before the first day. Even though I’ve spent the last year teaching English this will be a bit different because it’s with little kids. Like really little kids. There is even one class called “Baby English” where parents bring their 2- and 3-year-olds to a class that is kinda like gymboree in English. I’ll write more about my program, how it works, and what I’ll be teaching in another entry. For now off to familiarize myself with techniques to entertain little Czech children whilst teaching them English…