Archive | November, 2010

The Bone Church

22 Nov

This technically wasn’t a “weekend excursion” since it happened in the middle of the week, but back at the end of October we had training for work in the town of Kutna Hora. On the Thursday after we had finished our training we visited the Sedlec Ossuary, more commonly know as the Bone Church. I believe the pictures below will explain why.

For the full story of the church, you should probably just click on the link above to Wikipedia. The short version is that a lot of bodies were buried in a cemetery there after the plague in the 14th century, then they were dug up to make room for the church building and they decided to use the bones to decorate the lower level. At any rate, it was a really cool place to visit, very different from any other church I’ve seen. And a little creepy since we visited a few days before Halloween…

Check the photos page for the full album of Kutna Hora and Bone Church pictures.


More Monday Madness

22 Nov

I’m beginning to sense that Monday’s class will yield a lot of blog fodder for me. As an update to last week’s disastrous class, today was another eventful day at Kids Club. There was some improvement in the crier, I think today she cried for only 3 hours. But the boy with raging ADD took a turn for the worse and bit the little devil boy’s ear. Yes, pulled a Mike Tyson and bit his ear, though there were no chunks missing. During playtime we heard screaming in the other room (and I was holding the crier so I knew it wasn’t her) and it turned out to be the little devil. Another little girl who was in the room with them also said that the one with raging ADD hit her as well, and there were red marks on her head to prove it. Awesome. I love Mondays.

Three Years and Counting…

20 Nov

Ally and me - Prague 2010

Two weeks ago (the first weekend of November) my cousin Alyson was in Prague for work. She and her husband Alex live in Zurich, Switzerland. (I did visit them in Zurich on my very last weekend of living in Spain last year but never blogged about it – oops!)

I went into Prague Saturday afternoon to meet up with them and hang out for the weekend. It turned out that Ally had to work all day Saturday so Alex and I explored a little on our own in the rainy weather. For dinner we had delicious sushi, which I hadn’t eaten since the summer in the US.

On Sunday we had all day to hang out in Prague, but unfortunately it was another rainy and gross day. We started the day off with a delicious breakfast from a cafe called “Bake Shop.” Full disclosure: we ended up going there three times between Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. It was close to our hotel and the hot chocolate and lattes were just so big and tasty, it seemed silly to not go there. We walked around the city center for a bit and went into a lot of shops to get out of the rain.

During our visit we realized that this was the third year in a row that we had spent the first weekend of November together. This might seem inconsequential until you factor in that Ally and Alex lived in Germany from September 2008 until March 2010, and now live in Zurich. And I was in Spain last year. So it’s not like we were just a few hours away on interstate 95 like used to be the case.

Ally and me - Athens 2008, in front of the parliament building

Two years ago I went to Europe to visit Ally and Alex in their new digs in Germany and to travel around Europe a little bit. We actually met up briefly in London first because they were visiting Amy, Ally’s friend from childhood, and I was meeting up with my roommates Ryan and Matt who were traveling in Europe at the same time as me. Then we spent the first weekend of November together in Athens, Greece because Ally had a conference for work (the same conference that brought her to Prague this year).

Then last year our parents all traveled to Europe together to tour around Germany, France, and Switzerland. We spent one weekend together in France where Alex’s family has a house. Then for the first weekend in November I met them all in Lake Como, Italy. We had a really nice time in Bellagio, a small town on the lake.

Ally and me - Lake Como 2009

That brings us up to this year in Prague, which I already detailed for you above. I feel really lucky to have my cousin and friend so close while we’re both living abroad.  It’s great to see her (and Alex!) on a regular basis, and they are always so sweet and let me crash in their hotel rooms 🙂 Ally told me that next year the work conference will be in Lisbon so we’ll have to see if we can make it four in a row…

CR vs Spain: Buses

20 Nov

I’m incredibly happy to report that the country in which I’m currently living has far superior bus transportation than Spain. In case you missed it, last year I harbored a strong hatred for the DAMAS bus company that operates in southern Spain. The passengers were crazy and the drivers and people in the ticket booths were often unfriendly. Those things I could deal with for cheap and pretty reliable transportation out of Huelva. But then one night I got dropped off on the side of the road in the dark because I didn’t know that the buses had different routes through the same small town (read the full story here) and from then on it was full-on hatred.

So I suppose it wouldn’t take much to top the bus service in Huelva, but the buses here in the Czech Republic are so much better it’s ridiculous. We use a bus company called Student Agency to get to/from Prague. I actually pay less to get from Karlovy Vary to Prague (two hours and change) than I did to get from Huelva to Sevilla (one hour). Once you convert the amount in Czech crowns to Euros it’s 5.25 euros for KV-Prague versus 8 euros for Huelva-Sevilla. So the first advantage here is that the service is cheap.

Then on top of the cheap price the service on the bus is super nice. I would equate the Student Agency bus lines to riding in an airplane. I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I think it’s nicer than flying with RyanAir or EasyJet. When you enter the bus (after showing your ticket to the bus attendant, the additional person on the bus that hands stuff out during the ride) there is calming classical music playing. And the seats are comfy leather chairs. Then the bus attendant comes around and offers newspapers to read. Of course they are all in Czech so I can’t enjoy that perk since my Czech vocabulary is roughly 30 words, with 20 of them being the numbers 1-20.

The bus is equipped with a bunch of flat screen TVs that fold down from the ceiling. They play ads for the first few minutes of the ride, then they show movies, usually American movies. The bus attendant comes around and offers headphones you can plug into the seat console. You can chose what channel you want to listen to the movie on, because they have the audio in English! (As well as in Czech.) So far I’ve gotten to enjoy “Must Love Dogs,” “The Good German” with George Clooney, and episodes of “Friends.” I’ve also suffered through “The Lake House” with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, but I took a nice nap in the middle of that one so it wasn’t too bad.

inside the Student Agency bus

I’m sure you’re already thinking, “Wow, Joanna, this sounds like a really nice bus. Can it get any better?” And the answer, amazingly, is YES!! Once the movie starts, the attendant comes around and offers you complimentary coffee, hot chocolate, or tea! And it’s tasty! Granted the cups are small, but it’s a free drink so you can’t complain at all. They also sell snacks, soft drinks, and beer.

So far there’s been a lack of crazy passengers on the Student Agency buses, but give it time and I’m sure they will emerge. On the plus side, I’ll be able to put on my headphones and watch a move in English. Toma!! (Spanish phrase for “yesss!!!” – one of my favorites from last year.)

The clear, clear, clear winner in this category is the Czech Republic, bringing the total to Spain 2, Czech Republic 1.

Manic Monday

15 Nov

Good afternoon! I just got home from my Monday morning Kids Club, the 4-hour English-language preschool we teach in our office/classrooms. The kids on Mondays are beginners, ages 2.5 to 5. Some of them are really cute and sweet but today was just an overall disaster. My head is pounding and I’m not sure whether it’s from:

  • the little girl who cried for 3 hours and 45 minutes of the 4 hours because she wanted her mom,
  • telling the boy with raging ADD to sit down or listen or put away the toys because it’s not play time,
  • the door (that was off the hinges, leaning up against the wall) that a little girl sent crashing down, breaking a trash can and scaring the hell out of the kid standing next to it, sending him into tears,
  • the little devil boy who did a raspberry and spit all over my face, or
  • the same little devil who clocked me in the face while he was “biting” me with the crocodile puppet

I will now pretend I’m in Spain and take a siesta… possibly until Tuesday.

My New Czech Slippers

11 Nov

Last year I had My New Spanish Haircut. Made sense as I was living in Spain where everyone was fashionable. This year it’s My New Czech Slippers because I’m living in the Czech Republic where it’s … cold. Not to say that people aren’t fashionable, some are, there’s just not the same emphasis on style as there is in Spain. Also I’m going home for Christmas so I can get my hair cut then, and I think attempting to get a haircut here where I don’t speak the language at all could be a traumatic experience. In any case, I now present to you my new (warm) Czech slippers:

And, like last year’s post, below I will present a photo montage of my previous slippers. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of myself in the slippers (there may be some old pics somewhere in my parents’ house that I don’t have access to right now) so I know it won’t be as awesome as pictures of a 7-year-old Joanna with feathered bangs, but hopefully entertaining nonetheless.

The first pair of slippers I remember owning were mice. I believe my cousin Ally had a matching pair. I loved them and by the time I stopped wearing them the bottoms were covered in many layers of duct tape to cover the holes.

Then came the Simba slippers I got for Christmas circa 1994. The left one even roared when you walked. They were a replica of adult Simba, but seeing as they were a product of the pre-internet era, this picture was the closest I could find.I wore Simba until I left for college (one may wonder why I thought it OK to bring a pair of overalls to college but not Simba slippers?), where I purchased a pair of blue whale slippers from The Mary Washington Shoppe. They made for great footwear in Mason Hall freshman year. The blue whales were very worn out after one school year (presumably from many trips down the hall to make Easy Mac in the microwave) so sophomore year they were replaced by Homer. Make that my first pair of Homers.Homer was fun because when you have them on he looks like he’s eating your feet. But he, too, was worn out and subsequently replaced by Shrek, who also looks like he’s eating your feet. Shrek was a gift from an MWC field hockey secret pal (I want to give credit to Kiri Jimerson, but I can’t remember if they were from her or someone else…). Shrek lasted for a while, past graduation, but eventually was replaced, by another pair of Homers. The second Homers had a good run in Arlington, but did not make the trip to Spain, nor to the Czech Republic. Last year I survived with just socks, albeit thick ones, but this year I knew it wasn’t going to cut it. And that brings us back to my new Czech slippers.