I attended my school’s last ples on Friday night and thought I would offer some closing thoughts about them.
1) I love the egalitarian nature of a ples. Anyone and everyone comes. Grandparents, parents, friends, younger siblings. The only requirement it seems is you should know someone at the school. Dancing happens throughout the night and it is almost exclusively the pleasant, romantic type of a happy couple or the fast paced excitement of people who actually know how to dance. The grinding that is so popular (and explicit) in the states is nowhere to be seen. As a teacher told me on Friday though, of course this isn’t the whole picture. The main hall was the room for the “mummies and daddies” as he put it. Downstairs a disco type area was set up for students. I never went in but what went on there might be a bit different from what I generally saw.
2) Czech’s love of alcohol was in full effect. Beer is truly a part of the culture here. Many towns have their own local brewery and many people drink copious amounts. At restaurants you generally get more beer for the same price or even cheaper than a bottle of water. IDs are never checked anywhere. As a Czech explained to me “It’s illegal to buy alcohol if your under 18, so why would you try?” Plus I imagine the desire to make money trumps the desire to check someone’s ID and refuse a sale. I saw this first hand when in the middle of a ples a student asked me to dance. She seemed nice enough but as soon as we got to the dance floor I realized she was absurdly drunk. Needless to say it was an awkward few minutes.Getting Czechs to not drink would take away one of the things that is deeply rooted in their culture. At the same time I think it is good to be here as a younger than average teacher who stays sober for an entire evening even after the champagne toast with the students.
3) Midnight surprises are delightful, entertaining and so entirely over-the-top that they would NEVER happen in the states.
In closing, living in a foreign country can be kinda neat…
It’s been a bit since my last entry but it’s amazing how fast time can go during the week once you start teaching all your classes. Today I wanted to share with you a rather unique but exciting part of Czech culture,that as a teacher here I am getting to experience.
The cold and dead of winter is Ples season here in the Czech Republic. What is a Ples? The literal translation is a “Graduation Ball” and the closest American equivalent is a prom, however there are big differences. Graduating from Gymnazium (high school) here is a big deal and you you have to pass a very difficult exam in the spring to do so. But a few months before that, every graduating class has a Ples. The graduating students wear fancy ball gowns and the men wear suits. Family, teachers, friends and classmates are all invited and come as well. A Ples evening includes lots of dance numbers from students and outside groups. A band plays most of the evening and everyone who wants to can dance.
The centerpiece ceremony of the evening is about halfway through the night. The graduating students line up and are called by name up to the stage. As they walk up they get pelted with Czech coins. It is pretty awesome as tons of coins get thrown at these students. It’s a miracle no one gets hurt but it’s real fun to watch. After the ceremony these coins get collected and it helps pay for the Ples. Once on stage they are presented with a sash saying “graduate” (in Czech) and a flower. After this there is a teacher-student dance (I got to dance with a student) and a student-parent dance.
To cap the evening every Ples has a “midnight surprise.” Generally organized by the graduating class it is a fun or silly presentation or dance of some kind. At Friday’s the class dressed up in Hawaiian garb (boys in coconut bikinis of course) and danced to a great medley of dance music.
I have been to three Ples’ so far with potentially two more to go (classes work differently here, there are a lot more than one per school). It has been lots of fun to see teachers and students all dressed up and having fun outside school. Being able to experience something like this as an English teacher and a foreigner has been very interesting but also lots of fun. I look forward to my other Ples’ in the coming weeks!