I left home in Massachusetts last summer in early July. I have been in the Czech Republic since early August. Since before I left my mom has been discussing various possibilities of what a visit here would entail. In the last few months we finalized things. My mom would come to London for a week and stay with my sister and then come to Prague on Friday night. I would pick them up, show them Prague, my town and my schools and see them off Sunday back to Prague. As the days approached it was fairly exciting. I have never had family visit me overseas in the past few years. I would get to show them where I have been living and share my life with them a bit. It would be great.
And then the volcano that cannot be named struck. Days before my mom and sister’s flight. It was quickly surmised that the trip wasn’t going to happen. My sister would try to get a flight back to London ASAP but my mom was left to cancel her trip. I was disappointed to be sure but I felt worse for my mom. All the expectation was gone and she was left with a week of regret and sadness. Totally lame.
I went about my business last week and decided to plan a weekend in Prague anyway. See friends and the city. It would be nice. On Thursday I noted my sister was catching a flight back to London. I was happy for her. On Friday I woke up like normal and taught a couple classes. I then went online and was shocked to see a note from my sister saying my mom got a seat on her flight too via standby. More shocking: they would be in Prague that night as originally planned.
Just crazy right? This past weekend has been great. I spent time with my family in Prague, my town of Sokolov, and the capital city of my region. I took them to restaurants, showed them my flat and schools and really enjoyed myself. It was over far too quick. But it was just awesome.
I will end with two small insights. Meeting a lot of different people since graduation I have realized how important family is. When people have good family relationships things are pretty sweet. On the flip-side I have seen few things that can cause more heartache and emotional damage than a dysfunctional family dynamic. I am truly thankful for how my family supports me and loves me. But know that even if my family wasn’t what they should be, my relationship with my creator is an anchor that is something I can never get from something here on earth. Lastly, it was humbling to be reminded today that going overseas is not just about YOU making sacrifices. Your family, whether they support you or not, give something up too. Some handle it better than others but it is never easy. I have about two more months left in this year here but this weekend will be seared in my memory for a long time to come.
I talked with my mom and sister last week. They are coming to visit in less than two weeks. I haven’t seen a family member since early July so this is exciting. I’ll get to show them my town and a bit of my life that I have been living here this year. One question they asked stuck with me. “So have you thought much about coming home in a few months?”
To be honest I haven’t.
I miss home. I miss my family, friends, New England. I miss people speaking English. I miss sitting on the couch in my family’s home watching TV. I certainly miss Dunkin Donuts coffee fresh from the shop. But I haven’t thought much about it.
I live in the Czech Republic. I eat pork and dumplings for lunch. I live on the 12th floor in a flat building. I drink Czech beer in local pubs. I sing worship songs in Czech at a little church on Sunday mornings. I teach English.
It’s my life at the moment. And I’m content.
Many of my students have little catchphrases in English that they use repeatedly because it’s one of the few words or phrases they know. One of them is “That’s all.” For example, “I like sports, nature, TV….that’s all.”
I’m here in the Czech Republic. I’m a teacher. It’s pretty neat. That’s all.
One of the fun things that almost everyone brings up but you never think of until you get over here is that the students don’t speak English. At least not fluently and certainly not confidently. To be fair I have to say the majority of my students can handle simple conversations and understand most of what I tell/teach them. However I have a few classes that quite literally know almost nothing. They speak to me in Czech without a second thought and have trouble reading short sentences in English properly. A fun challenge to say the least.
Another fun thing that Czech schools do is they substitute in-house. That means if a teacher is ill or absent they will just throw that teacher’s students into another teacher’s classroom. I would say this has happened about once every week or so on average here. Now if I spoke Czech this would be simply a mild annoyance of having an extra 10-15 kids in the classroom. But I don’t. And the students who get put in my class usually only take German, not English. Do you see where I’m going with this?
A funny side effect of this is students invariably have to go to the bathroom during class (heaven forbid they go in the 10 minutes before or after class…) But of course my German sub students have no clue how to ask this in English. One daring students however asked his english classmates for help and gave me this note a month ago,
“KAN AJ GOU TU FARMA”
I looked quizzically at this note for a second before I figured it out and students told me what he wanted. You, dear reader are probably confused. Let me break this down for you.
Kan=Can. “C” is very different in Czech. Whenever they have a hard “C” sound they put a “K” instead. For example California=Kalifornia. The English student probably told him “can” and he thought quite logically “kan.”
AJ=I. Czech is phonetic so every letter has the same pronunciation. “J” is always pronounced like “Y” in English. So when this student heard “I” again he logically produced “AJ.”
GOU=Go. Simple Mistake.
TU=To. Again simple mistake.
FARMA=?? Not a clue what he was going for here but perhaps it’s close to the German word for toilet? I kind of doubt it though.
The moral of the story is I often have to do as much thinking and deciphering as my students do when we are in the classroom. Oh, and I let him go to the bathroom.
One thing that is interesting about being overseas is how laid back people are. By that I mean things seem much less politically-correct and such. Upsides to this include people don’t sue as much. Downsides include things are ok that seem wildly dangerous to me. In any case it keeps you on your toes here. Here is one example.
This past Wednesday my basic school had an Olympiad of sorts. Basically the teachers and I played various relay games in the hallway of the school while all the students watched. It appeared that the festivities were planned by one of the 6th year classes who are around age 11 or 12. The girls were dressed like gangster boys with big jeans, shirts, hats and bandanas. The boys were dressed like women. Skirts, tank-tops, wigs and other assets. It was all a bit silly but entertaining as well. It’s hard to remember what school was like back when I was in middle school but I’m fairly sure of one fact: I never crossed-dressed.
So another exciting morning passed in a foreign country. Did I mention I earned a certificate and chocolate bar for my efforts?