The (Soccer) Moments of our Lives…

This past weekend was the final trip I had with my fellow ESI teachers for the year. We headed to the southern part of the Czech Republic, to the small town of Cesky Krumlov. It is a little touristy place on a beautiful curved river. The main activity of the weekend was a rafting trip on Saturday. The sun was out in force and while the river was far from white water the current took us along at a nice pace. It was really awesome to have this last week of fun and fellowship with my fellow teachers. A small story illustrates this.

After the rafting we had a dinner reservation at a nice local brewery restaurant. The dinner was nice but the main event in my mind was America’s opening game in the World Cup against soccer power England. I have always been a huge soccer fan and World Cups are the pinnacle of the game. I scream at every pass, shot and especially goal when I watch. I had brought the jersey of my favorite player to wear for the game but that was about it. However, a fellow ESI teacher had managed randomly to procure a number of USA flag cowboy hats, multiple red, white, and blue bandanas and even brought his grandfather’s American flag, which he wore as a cape.

Even as a soccer fan I can be pretty self-conscious but I figured this wasn’t the time to worry about such things. Soon I found myself walking through a small Czech town bedecked in hat and bandana. It was great, but better things were to come.

Right before the game starts the teams come out and the national anthems are played. To my shock and amazement, when the Star – Spangled Banner began all my ESI American friends shot up and started singing lustily. For a moment I was frozen. This was a Czech pub, other people were around and they were rooting for England. But then my amazement gave way to excitement and I shot up and joined in. It was probably one of the best moments of this year.

I love soccer and I love my friends and too often they are separate. But watching the game last night with everyone was as perfect an ending as I could make up for this year. This has been a great year and last night typified that for me.


I Wish Someone Had Told me…

This entry might sound depressing at first but give me the benefit of the doubt until the end. It’s happy, positive, perhaps even corny so just keep reading, thanks.

It’s been five months since I arrived I’m at the halfway point of my year here. Term 1 ends this week with Term 2 beginning in a week. A good time to be a bit reflective, yes? So I came to the realization yesterday about the one thing I wish someone had told me before I left America to come here. I received a lot of training, got a lot of advice and knowledge. A year in South Africa also helped in feeling like I could tackle this next year. But one thing was not mentioned and I wish it had been. It is the following: If the first month or two is awful don’t worry about it. It gets better.

Now to be fair this was told to me in a bunch of different ways. ESI is (in?)famously known for drilling the idea of “low expectations” into our lowly first-year teacher heads. They give us as much heads up as can reasonably be expected. I’m not trying to blame anyone and I’m certainly not going for a pity party with this entry. The reality simply is, the first few months can be really hard. South Africa was nothing like this. On the surface I suppose that’s obvious but it goes deeper than that. A different language, less tangible support day-to-day, not many people you know in the area. I suppose the easiest excuse I could use was I had a medical issue with my nose and that was just stressful. But at the end of the day the heart thing was I just wasn’t happy here at first.

So where am I now? I’m thankful beyond belief to be content. Teaching is tiring and not always fun but what job is? I don’t feel overwhelmed by it anymore and while teaching English might not be in my future, teaching something definitely is. I have become great friends with fellow ESI teachers and those friendships will be one of the great legacies of this year for me I think. I have helped start one English club and participated in another one regularly, meeting some great students. I feel like this is my job, my life at the moment. Is it always fun? No. Is it always exciting?Not usually. But it is slowly, inexorably getting better. And I am content and feel blessed.

So final thought. If you go somewhere different and it sucks well yeah that’s supposed to happen (if it doesn’t you are indeed truly blessed). Give it some time. Pray. Keep trying. Trust God. And things will work out.