Archive for October, 2007

6:35 am

Czech pride

For one of my classes, I brought in a Business Week article, Poland Tries to Reverse Brain Drain, thinking that the Czech Republic might have seen a similar effect after joining the EU. But no, while my students found the article interesting, they were also rather smug about insisting that, while it made perfect sense for Poles to leave their country, Czechs would never abandon their homeland to seek their fortunes overseas. Upon prodding a little bit, they did concede that, while they would never consider leaving the Czech Republic for good, they would maybe consider going abroad for a year or two, "just for the experience."

Another student, in a different class, pointed out to me that it’s very hard for Czechs to travel. After all, while there are some beautiful cities out there, there are so few that compare favorably with Prague!

10:06 am

Hot water is a privilege, not a right…

Most Prague districts are supplied with hot water from power stations and heating plants using centralized heat distribution. Unfortunately, maintenance is performed annually, which means residents must do without hot water for several days (typically 5 to 12) every year. Each district has its own schedule, so there isn’t a city-wide shortage of hot water, and most natives make do by heading for their gyms, instead.

This regularly scheduled maintenance, however, is apparently not the cause for the present absence of hot water in my flat, where we have been without hot water for very nearly a week now. I don’t know what the problem is: all I’ve heard from the landlord on the subject is "Damn technicians!".

I knew of course that things would be different outside the US; that was, in fact, part of the point of my leaving. But gosharoonie: I wasn’t expecting things to be this primitive!

1:37 pm

Czechs and Other Languages

I usually ask my students if they speak other languages (besides Czech and English). Almost all of them speak German, and there’s a smattering of other Slavic languages such as Slovenian or Croatian or Polish, and an occasional other language. Absolutely no one volunteers a knowledge of Russian: I always have to ask, "Didn’t you study Russian in school?", and the reluctant "yes" comes back.

While doing my TEFL course, we had a movie night one night and we saw Kolya. Before the movie, our Czech instructor directed us to notice not just the portrayal of life in the Czech Republic in the waning days of the Communist era, but also the thinly veiled hostility of Czechs towards Russians. Apparently, even 18 years past the Velvet Revolution, that hostility is still present.

None of my students has claimed much knowledge of French, and they are frequently impressed that I speak the language. French, they assure me, is a hard language: the pronunciation is so difficult.

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