Friday, June 27, 2008

School's Out!

Today was the last day of school. Classes haven't been taught since Monday, but the students still had to come to meet with their class teachers, clean classrooms, and play sports in the gym.

One of my students came up to me a few days ago with a bar of chocolate.

"I just wanted to thank you for learning us this year," she said.

"It's teaching," I responded.

"Whatever," she replied. "I just wanted to thank you. That is all."

Slovaks have trouble with the different between teach/learn because their word is the same, only when they want to use learn, they add a reflective.

Though I was first slightly disappointed that she forgot the difference between teach/learn, I realized that even though she made a grammar mistake, she was still speaking truth. I learned my students very well this year. Better put, I learned about my students. Or, I learned from my students. Also, I learned with my students. The prepositions can continue.

Grammar mistakes happen. I even find myself making more grammar mistakes, or at least catching them, here than when I was in the States.

Thank you's do not always happen, but, when they do, they make a world of difference. So, whoever you are, thank you for reading my blog this year and thinking about me and praying for me. Stay tuned for more updates.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Grilling Out

One of my favorite activities here in Bratislava is going to Josh's flat where there is a terrace. On the terrace is a grill. Now that the weather is very warm. Grilling out is a great option any night.

We grilled out twice last week. Once the began raining just as we started eating, so our little picnic had to move inside. The second time is what is now known as "The Caveman Night."

Jozi , Amy, and I were at the store and I was looking at meat when I saw that there was a pile of turkey legs available. I took one look at them and said we had to buy them. So we did.

As you can see in the picture, we didn't have a bag for our turkey legs, so we put them in our pockets. You have to pay for bags sometimes here.

We bought 3 legs - one for Josh, Jozi, and myself. When we arrived at Josh's, Jozi, Amy, and I began a caveman chat. We then put the meat on the grill. It was around 8 o'clock.

An hour and a half later I was rather hungry and demanded we finally eat the legs. Unfortunately, the legs were so thick that it wasn't even cooked yet.

A little while later I took a bite out of one of them and it was finally cooked. Nearly two hours later.

I had never eaten a whole turkey leg before, and now that I have completed the task, I would like to try to eat a whole turkey. Maybe I should start with a chicken.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The End is Near!!!

Days until I get 21 two-thousand word research papers: 1 (I hope I will be receiving 21)

Days until half of my students leave for Paris: 2

Days until I get to see another doctor for my shoulder: 3 (I hope at the most)

Days until grades are due: 11

Days until I meet Jon Covel: 11

[Jon Covel is a American who will be teaching here next year and he taught here last year and everyone seems to love him. He is around 30, plays guitar and baseball, among other things, and everyone says that we will get along very well next year. I have already appointed him to the position of "new best friend" even before meeting him. We'll see if we get along or not. (Having younger guys here is pivital. The closest American male this year is Josh, and he is 30, and he is leaving this year. So I have to replace him)]

Days until no more teaching: 12

(Notice how grades are due before we are done teaching. So I suppose that means there will be no real teaching going on)

Days left until no more school: 19

Days until I leave for Croatia: 23

(I'm going to Croatia for 5 days from July 1 - 5. I will be staying in Dubrovnik on the beach. It will be glorious)

Days until I arrive back in Lansing, MI: 30

Days until I return to Bratislava: 83

Before I know it, summer will be here, and then before I know it, summer will be gone.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Low Tatras

Two weekends ago, a group of us went to the Low Tatras, which are in the middle of the country. We arrived Friday evening at the penzion and went hiking Saturday morning.

The penzion was poor. They advertised a hot tub, but then said it cost 100 SKK to enter for 1/2 hour and only two people could enter at a time. They also had a breakfast for 120 SKK, which was very Slovak - meat and bread. I suppose I should have been thankful it wasn't hot dogs. There was no common area and terrible water pressure.

Nevertheless, the hike was fantastic. We hiked to the top of a mountain, walked along its ridge and then ate lunch at a cottage at the very top. After eating, we walked for about an hour, and then it started to rain and hail, so a group hiked down and another kept going.

The hike down was dangerous because of the rain and snow on the ground. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but I came close to slipping a few times.

The hike was a good opportunity for me to get to know my friends better. I had a great conversation with a Slovak Juro about communism. We got on the topic because I asked him how the path we were walking along was made. The path was simply amazing. It was made out of large rocks that had to weigh 50 pounds each. I thought it must have taken years to build the path. He said he didn't know when or how it was made, but that it was made under the communist era.
I then asked him what his family says about communism. He said he couldn't remember much because he was only five when the Velvet Revolution occurred. He said his grandparents thought communism was better but his parents disagreed. His grandparents liked communism because everyone had a job and security.
Later, he asked me what people in the United States thought about it. I said that people were scared that communism would take over country after country and eventually come to the United States. He thought this was hilarious. He had never heard of this worry.
Soon we got onto the topic of governments in general and decided that every form of country has its pros and cons and that all governments can become corrupt.
I concluded that perhaps we merely fear what we don't know or don't understand.
The mountaintop was so peaceful. We touched the clouds. The view above villages and valleys makes you want to listen to people and try to understand them.
Nevertheless, we always come down those mountains. Sometimes it's easy to remember what it's like atop a mountain. Sometimes not so much.

Rotator Cuffed

Two months ago, I went to the doctor's with my friend Jozi to have a doctor check out my rotator cuff. It had been hurting for about a month and a half, and it was clear that resting was not going to help it. (Side note for those who are asking why I waited a month and a half: remember this is coming from the same guy who walked on a broken ankle for over two weeks. Then again that broken ankle actually started healing, and in the right way.)

So, the doctor moves my arm a little this each way to test the pain and decides to give me some medication. I went in with the intention of getting an x-ray to really see how it was. Not today though.

Three weeks later when I ran out of the medication, I asked the assistant principal if I could take a student with me to go to the doctor's because Jozi was in Austria that week. She let me pick which student I wanted to take. I picked Andrej, the baseball player who took full responsibility for my injury because it came while playing baseball and said he would do anything to help me.

The next day I arrived at school and the assistant principal found Andrej and told him he was to accompany me. Andrej approached me with a smile, glad to help me. Then he said, "Professor, you should have told me yesterday that I was going to take you to the doctor's. I stayed up until 2 a.m. doing my homework. I could have been relaxing." I replied, "Now I'm especially glad you didn't know."

We arrived at the doctor's office and I received an x-ray quicker than I imagined. We were only there for an hour. That is lightning speed here. We then took the x-rays to a specialist (though I question how special this doctor really was). We waited for an hour and a half to see him. Andrej and I talked about baseball, the Lyceum, and his future. It was a good opportunity to hear his opinions about various subjects.

Around 10:30 a.m., the doctor called us in. After looking at the x-rays for a moment and moving my arm around a little, he said he would give me an injection.

Not an injection, I said to myself.

For those who don't know, my family has a terrible allergy toward injections. We have been known to pass out from time to time.

If he told me he was going to give me an injection and then just gave it to me, it would be no problem. Nevertheless, he waited about ten minutes, giving me ample time to psych myself up for the needle.

When the doctor was about to inject the medicine (cortisone, I believe. I didn't find out) into my shoulder, Andrej said, "Just look at me, professor." I looked at Andrej and, a minute later, I felt a needle the size of a ruler enter my shoulder. I felt it go through every single tissue and muscle.

After the needle exited my body, I tried to stand failingly. Then the doctor told me to lie down. Then they lifted up my legs, and he pushed him hand into my forehead. I thought he was just checking my temperature. A few minutes later, Andrej finally said, "He wants you to try to push his hand." Thanks for the help finally, Andrej, I wanted to say.

After lying for about fifteen minutes, I could finally stand. Then the doctor told me to buy a sling, a 20 crown (1 dollar) investment, which turned out to look like a towel of guaze. I was told to return the next day for a check-up.

I wore the sling the rest of the day and returned the following morning. The doctor told me to rest that weekend and Monday I would feel like Spiderman. He said I could return on Monday if I wanted, but it wasn't necessary. He said the shoulder would heal now and he gave no further instructions.

Monday, came and I was still Peter Parker pre-spiderbite stage.

I have searched the Internet for the cure for my ailment. I have found numerous rotator cuff stretching exercises and helpful tips. The shoulder has improved; however, the progress is slow. It has been nearly three weeks. If it continues for another week, I will return to the doctor's.

Through this experience, I have learned one thing, and re-learned another. I re-learned that going to the doctor's in a foreign country is terrible. Some things are not translated and expectations are not always the same. I learned that x-rays make excellent wall decorations.