Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Answer

I have been asked the same question several times today.

The answer is twenty-seven.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Okay, so this is sort of cheating. I did this "daily drawing" last July, but it's in the sketch book I'm using for these drawings so I decided it deserved some inclusion.

Newer drawings and actual posts about the workshop are coming. For now I need to work on my next lesson plan. The program is definitely keeping me busy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It Begins

Friday was orientation and tomorrow the workshop truly begins. My brain is feeling a little fizzled from all the reading and homework that's due for tomorrow. This course is going to be rigorous and challenging, and they told us it'll basically be condensing six months worth of learning into four weeks. However it looks like it's going to be fascinating.

Almost all the students are here now, there's going to be nine total, and once the ninth person arrives there will be five of us here in the flat. It also turns out that I am the only female student in this group.

So, just a brief entry today. My brain is tired and busy going over lesson ideas. More to come though.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Drawing for Jan. 11, 2012

During my last year of college I was suffering from anxiety and came up with an outlet for it. I refer to them as my daily drawings, although I'm not quite in the habit of doing them every day like I was in college.

Here's the idea behind these drawings: I use colored pencils , charcoal, and chalk and just draw whatever is hovering in my mind. I usually use three colors, sometimes more and occasionally less, and I just make an abstract image. Sometimes particular colors will stick in my mind, or shapes or shadows or movements, that sort of thing. It's kind of a way to vaguely reflect on the sorts of things I saw that day or the way I'm feeling.

So, I thought this blog might be an interesting place to start posting them. I may or may not get back into the habit of doing one every day, but for now I'll post them as I draw them.

I did this one yesterday evening, so its title is simply 1/11/12 (the American way of writing dates).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Prague Photos

I've mostly been spending my days since arriving  taking long walks around the city, the sort that leave me very exhausted by the time I get back to the apartment, but that sometimes helps me sleep at night. Sometimes.

The sun was out yesterday so that colors of the buildings and river were lit up wonderfully.

So, here are some pictures I've taken during my walks.

I'm trying to limit the number of photos I put up on my blog in any given entry, but for those who are interested I have a flickr account with lots of pictures of my travels thus far:


Saturday, January 7, 2012


Hello readers. I'm still alive. Alive and in Prague.

Why Prague some of you are asking. Why not Italy? I thought you were bordering on obsessive when it came to Italy.

I am here to do a TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language - course. My cousin Ali first suggested the idea when I arrived in England when I said that I wanted to do some traveling, especially in Europe. Apparently there's a fair amount of demand for native English speakers in non-English countries to help people improve their language skills, especially business people who find it useful in the corporate world.
While searching around for places that do the TEFL workshops I saw that Prague looked like it had a great program, one that wasn't that much more expensive than doing it in England, and from what I read it was both a really neat place and low cost-of-living place to be. It was also one of the cities that I really wanted to see, so I decided to go for it. The workshop is from Jan. 16th to Feb. 10th, and at the end I'll get a TEFL certificate that will enable me to work in all sorts of places, including at the school where I take the course. Assuming I pass. If I fail I won't have the certificate or a job offer. 
So, during the after-Christmas letdown I started packing to come here and was amazed by how much stuff I managed to accumulate since crossing the pond.

The hardest thing about packing is trying to figure out what you can possibly live without, and I find the biggest debates regarding items varies a lot from person to person. I my case it was my art supplies and my blank books/sketchpads. It took me a long time to persuade myself that bringing my all my oil paints and my big wooden palette just wasn't a feasible option. After finally putting them aside I had to tackle which books to bring. It's impossible to know which book will be the right size and shape and have the right sort of paper in it for when sudden inspiration for a very specific piece strikes me. What if I'm unprepared for that moment and lose the opportunity to make a great masterpiece? Well, I had to judge which ones would most likely suite many sudden bursts of creativity. I wish I had brought my palette knife though.

I flew here late Thursday night and was picked up a the airport by somebody from the school, which getting to the student flat so much easier. 
For those who feel like pulling up google maps, the student flat is located at Nad Palatou in Prague 5, and the school is located at U Pujcovny 2. I already know from walking around looking at signs that Czech is going to be challenging for me. At least when I was struggling to learn some Italian I had a bit of French as well to help me figure out some of the words and patterns, but Czech is a whole new ballgame. Lots of letters with accent symbols.

So, I was taken to the student flat, shown to my room, given an envelope of information along with my keys, then left to my own devices. The flat is very much like a college dorm: lots of simple rooms with white walls, a twin bed, a desk, a wardrobe, and a warning not to put pictures on the walls as repainting is expensive. Each floor has a bathroom marked as being either men's or women's. The one on my floor is for men, but I've ignored the sign and used it anyway: it was two sinks and two mirrors and an actual bathtub whereas the one for women has only one sink and a shower stall. The room had a strong perfumey floral smell, like walking into a Yankee Candle store and being assaulted by thousands of oddly scented candles all at once, though not quite as potent. I may have to buy a pillow and decent blanket as both are rather worn out.
Thus far living here has been like living in a haunted house: I see signs that there are other people here but I haven't actually seen anybody. There is food in the kitchen along with dirty dishes that appear and disappear, lights are sometimes left on in the bathroom (and a dripping faucet to my great irritation when I wake in the middle of the night), and pairs of shoes left by the door. I'm hoping more students will soon arrive and add a bit of life to the place. Right now it's very lonely. 
I started unpacking my stuff (my suitcase was labeled heavy, as usual, due to my inability to abandon my precious blank books), trying to bring some life to the creepy white empty room and soon realized that I had made a great mistake. I didn't follow a key bit of advice laid down by the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy regarding traveling: I had failed to bring a towel with me. No intersetellar strag would ever trust me enough to offer me a ride now that I hadn't even adhered to advice that sparked its own holiday (May 25th). Also: I really wanted to wash my face and brush my teeth. 
It was my power of the pen shirt to the rescue again. This shirt has lasted amazingly well for all the hell I've put it through. It has often served as my sleepshirt/towel for pre-bed cleansing rituals, shirt that can be safely worn while doing an ink drawing, and general really-comfy-to-wear-especially-when-sick-with-a-cold shirt. I won't bore you with a full description of what Power of the Pen is: basically it was (and I believe still is) an interscholastic creative writing competition for middle schoolers in Ohio, and was really awesome. I have a couple of medals I won and this shirt, which I bought when I made it to the state level. I didn't win any medals at state level. State level was tough. This shirt has somehow survived nearly twelve years of abuse and the P.O.P logo is even still decipherable. 
It was a mostly sleepless night which I expected. Happily for me I received a kindle for Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad!) which I have full of books to read, including several of my comfort books.

The following day I ventured out in search of food. I did bring some things with me, which was a very good idea. Here is my own personal advice for travelers: bring breakfast items with you. It doesn't have to be anything major, I don't imagine eggs would travel very well, but just something you can eat in the morning. It's amazing how much better the world feels when you wake up in a strange place but have the guarantee of some food. I brought with me two bags of oats which make an amazing porridge, and a bag of Italian coffee my cousin gave me for Christmas. Coffee! Real coffee automatically makes the day better, and the smell of fresh coffee was able to cover up the Yankee Candle smell of my room.

Fortified with a nice bowl of porridge and a cup of coffee I ventured out into the world. In my welcome envelope there was what looked like a bus ticket and something else similar that I have no idea what it's for since there's no English on it. I went to wait nervously for the bus that instructions (also from the envelope) said would take me into town to where the big grocery store is. As the other people got on the bus I suddenly felt that it was desperately important for me to have the full huge Prague map they'd given me in case I got lost, which I happen to be very very good at. So like the frightened little coward I was I scurried back to the flat and proceeded to struggle desperately with my key trying to get the front door unlocked.
This seems to be some sort of rite of passage with me. When I'm in a new place feeling nervous and lonely I have a struggle involving a key and my door. During my first week at boarding school the moment that I finally broke down and had a thorough homesick cry was when I couldn't seem to get my door to open. My key also wouldn't work when I studied in Italy, but that was a case of them giving me the wrong key. I also got locked out of Tam's house recently due to a badly cut key. In this case the key was just fine, I just had to struggle and get angry at the damn door until I finally figured out the correct sequence for direction to hold the key in the lock while pushing at just the right moment.

I managed to retrieve the map that I would be too embarrassed to actually open in public due to its large size and bravely returned to the bus stop. When it arrived I was relieved to find that the ticket did indeed fit perfectly in the machine on the bus and was easily stamped and validated.

Once in town I easily found the TESCO. TESCO is an evil chain, but at least it's a familiar evil chain. I managed to find some basic food substances (and a towel) easily to my relief. Prices are going to take a little while for me to get used to. The English pound was close enough to the U.S. Dollar that it wasn't hard for me to guage the price of items. However, one U.S. Dollar is equal to about 20 koruna. So my purchases for that trip cost about 450 koruna, which is not a number I'm used to seeing for such minor purchases.
I also discovered that like many places that are not America you only get a plastic bag if you ask for one. I realized this after I had paid for my stuff and the cashier had started on the next person. I was too embarrassed and didn't know the Czech words to ask for one so I sort of hastily wrapped everything up in my towel and scurried away. I was able to stick some flat things like the package of salami and cheese into my shoulder bag, but there was now way I could gracefully carry a can of beans, jam, some milk, a bag of chips, and a towel gracefully. It was probably glaringly obvious that I was a tourist, or just weird.

I made it back with my food and was able to have a decent lunch, so I called it a win.

So that's me mostly settled in. More posts will come once the real adventures begin.