Sunday, September 30, 2007

Slovensky Raj


I apologize for not blogging lately. It has been a busy last week or two.

Last weekend I went to Slovensky Raj (Slovak Paradise) with a group of people. We stayed in a nice cottage right near the hiking trails. We left right after school on Friday and traveled by train for about four hours. The train ride there was not that bad. That was my first train ride.

Saturday morning, we began hiking at around 8 a.m. and continued until probably 4 p.m. when we tried to catch a bus back to the town our cottage was in. The hike was pretty cool. We hiked around little waterfalls and such. It was cold at times, especially when I slipped into the streams a little.

I strained my left ankle during the hike though, so when everyone else went Sunday morning for another hike. I stayed in and graded some papers. The train ride back was packed. We were fortunate enough to get seats, but most people had to stand.

It was a pretty exciting trip.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The King of the Castle

Napoleon was lucky I wasn't there to fight him centuries ago because he would have met his match at Devin Castle if I was there. In 1809, after signing a peace treaty in Bratislava, Napoleon made his way to the town of Devin, which is on the Danube. He took the castle and then blew it up.

Yesterday, Larry, Kendra and I made our way to Devin, which is a half hour bus ride from Bratislava. The castle sits about a hill overlooking the Danube. The castle was so cool. We explored what was left of the castle for several hours. The castle has been built and re-built since the Romans controlled the known world. Most of the castle was only ruins, but it was still cool nonetheless.
There aren't enough words to explain how cool the castle was. Kendra and I even got ourselves into a little bit of trouble. We found a way to climb onto of the castle walls and walked above one of the castle gates where I imagine archers stood to shoot approaching armies. It was quite dangerous, but we were safe about it.
I think that before I leave Slovakia, I will have to take the castle by force. Would the government really send troops or the police to try to get me out of the castle? I think I could guard the castle quite well. I will need my own men, bows and arrows, swords, and surfs. Call me King Daniel from now on.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What A Way to Spend a Wednesday

About a week ago, I was informed that Wednesday I would meet Peter, who is in charge of making sure the Americans have everything they need, at 7 a.m. to go to the doctors. First thing, 7 a.m. is way too early to be ready to go. Well, I suppose being ready at 7 isn't so tough as I have zero period tomorrow (which is at 7:20). Anyway, I met Peter and two other new teachers and we walked to a bus stop and headed toward the doctor's office.

Now, I didn't learn until the day before that they had to get a blood sample. I am terribly afraid of blood tests and anything that has to do with needles. Sitting in the waiting room, I tried not to think about what was going to happen. Not thinking about it was quite easy; I was perplexed with the music that was coming from the stereo. The music was really bad American 80s music.

Anyway, Peter told me that I was the first to go in from our group. I walked into the doctor's office and sat in a chair and pulled up my left sleeve. The doctor motioned to me that I had to flex my arm a few times to get the blood flowing. The doctor tied a rubber band around my left bicep, and then I saw the needle. Now, I am used to getting worked up about getting blood taken and nearly passing out and sometimes wishing that I would just pass out so the pain would be over, but I have never hyperventilated in a foreign country.

The doctor said something like, "will you faint?" And I say, "Nie" (which is no). Then she asked again, and I said maybe, so they had me lie down. Then the doctor did the blood test and all that, and I was totally out of it. My body was very white. I looked at my hands and they lost all color. Then the doctor kept asking, "Cafe," and I kept saying, "Nie, nie." The only thought that went through my head was how much I hate coffee and how that would not make anything better. Then the doctor asked if I wanted tea, and again I said no. Then I remember the Slovak for water (voda), and said that. Peter, who was in and out of the room, said the doctors wanted to take my blood pressure, and I kept thinking, "there is obviously something wrong with my blood pressure. You don't have to take it to figure that out." Then when they were about to take my blood pressure, I sat up and said I was fine, even though I wasn't, I just didn't want my blood pressure taken.

After I don't know how long, I realized what was wrong: they took my blood and said I couldn't eat that morning. I suppose I forgot to mention that.

Today in class I was talking to my class about how stories have purposes to them, so I guess I should be a good storyteller and find a purpose of this story. Not knowing the language where you live is bad, and what also is bad is getting blood drawn, and what is ever worse is experiencing both at the same time.

Friday, September 7, 2007

European Football

After classes today, the students got together to play their football, soccer. Another professor asked me to join them; naturally, I said yes. Soccer and me don't really get along. I am not used to sports that involve kicking things. I could probably count the number of times I have played soccer. Nevertheless, I enjoyed playing. I even scored a goal, which is probably my first ever. We lost in overtime.

I realized something during that game: I could not think of a single student in any of the four classes I have had so far that I would consider obese. I shared this observation with the other professor playing. He said it is rare to see someone overweight. I was not able to figure out the exact difference between Americans and Slovaks right away. Do Americans eat more? Maybe, but I'm not sure if that's it. Do Americans sit around more? No, I think loafing is something that everyone does. Then I realized it was the amount of walking Slovaks do.

When my students asked me the major difference between America and Slovakia, I said trasportation. Nearly every American household has at least one car, some two, some three. Americans drive everywhere. How often do Americans walk anywhere? Most Slovaks rely on public transportation. The streets aren't that busy. Bratislava does not even have very many stop lights.

I do not believe that walking or taking a bus everywhere is inconvenient; in fact, I find it rather enjoyable. I wonder what the average American would say is more convenient.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The First Day

Monday (Pondelok) was our first day of school. It was a short day, however. The school year begins with a church service at the big Lutheran church. The service was in Slovak. There was a bulletin for us to follow along with, but that too was in Slovak. I attempted to sing some of the songs, but it was rather difficult.

After the service, everyone went to the school, and the students met with their class teachers. At the Lyceum, students stay with the same 36 students their entire high school career. So any class they have, they have with those students. Each grade has two classes. In the English classes, they are split into three groups. The class teacher is the person who guides that class their five years in school.

I didn't have any classes Monday, but Tuesday I had two classes. I had my 3rd years. In 3rd year, they learn American literature. In 4th year, they learn British literature. This was my first experience teaching. I was a little nervous before class, but that went away a little bit into class. Some of the students looked a little scared because I told them that they could not speak Slovak in my classroom and they would lose points from their next test if they did. I would be scared, too.

I had my first sweet lunch yesterday. Lunch, which is called "obed," was sweet rolls and soup. It wasn't as bad as people made it seem. I almost liked it.

Well, I don't have any classes today, but tomorrow I have four classes. Today I am just preparing and planning for my classes. We will go to the normal class schedule next week.

The weather is still cold here. It is 46 degrees now. I can't believe it.