Monday, December 7, 2009

A Weekend in A Village

This past weekend (December 4-6), I spent time at my friend Miro's house in a little village in South Central Slovakia, Pribelce. About 500 people live in Pribelce. Just walking down the streets, one could tell that everyone knew everyone else. When there was someone people didn't know, they knew that it must be a visitor.

The highlight of the weekend for me was the Pribelce sandpit and the end of the pig killing.

The Pribelce sandpit is monstrous. Unfortunately, my camera wasn't working, so I couldn't take a picture of it. Miro explained that about a million years ago, an ocean lay over the city. This is evident in the shark teeth that one is able to find in the sandpit. I looked for shark teeth but could find none.

We were invited to a pig killing, but we showed up halfway through the process. The pig was already killed and the workers were busy stuffing meat into pig intestines to make sausages. The workers used a small device, almost like a gun, to shoot the meat into the intestines. It was a fun process to watch. They explained the whole process from the killing to the storing of the pork and sausages. It has inspired me to want to see the whole process.

In my classes, we are reading "The Importance of Being Earnest" and one character says that when one is in the city, he entertains himself and when one is in a village, one entertains others. Surely that was the case this weekend, as we had to provide the entertainment for ourselves. There's no malls to walk in. There's no events to attend.

Needless to say, I'm glad to live in the city.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In the Recording Studio

On October 8, 2009, a student came running into class asking if I could do her a favor. She asked if I would do a recording for Slovak Television on that day. She said she did not know what I would be recording, but it would be a voiceover.

Considering it an opportunity that I might never have again, I accepted.

So I met the student at a recording studio. A script was prepared for me and another American to read. The script discussed the history of Bratislava and why a European congress should take place in Bratislava in 2013 for Oncological and Gynocological research.

Though I am unsure who prepared the script, it was rather absurd at times. They wanted me to say things like, "Bratislava is a Mediterrean-type city." I told them that this was just ridiculous and untruth, so I could not say it. They did not object.

The recording process was fascinating. The microphones were so sensitive that even shifting my weight might cause noise. It was also interesting how they would re-record parts that I made a mistake on. The producer would play back from where I did not make a mistake and then I would begin the script again.

I had only read the script three times before recording, so it was difficult to read the text without making mistakes.

Breathing was perhaps the hardest part of the whole process. I had to turn my head to the side to breathe because I felt that my breathing was too loud.

Because I might never be in such a recording studio again, I had the student take a picture of me attempting to sing so that people might think that I was recording a CD.

If you ever watch a video about a European congress taking place in Bratislava, you might hear a familiar voice. Just think: my voice will be heard by hundreds of influential people throughout Europe. I didn't know I was that loud.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fall Break 2009 - Dublin, Ireland

During fall break, five of us went to Dublin, Ireland. It was my first trip to an English speaking country. It felt much different knowing that we could speak English with anyone we met. We spent four days in the city.

Dublin is a city that likes to parade its various artists. All around Dublin are quoted from authors such as James Joyce and Jonathan Swift.

In the city, there are many signs that say "To Let." My first thought when I saw those signs was that it looks like "Toilet", only the "i" is missing. I was not sure how anyone else did not see the same thing until we found a sign in which someone put the "i" into it.

The most famous attraction in Dublin is the Guinness brewery. The tour of the Guinness brewery begins with an introduction into the art of making beer. For Guinness there are four ingredients: barley, hops, water, and yeast. The tour takes the tourist through the process and shows different advertisements for Guinness over the years. The beer is celebrating its 250th anniversary.

On one of the days, we all went on a bus tour to see the countryside and the Powerscout Gardens. It was a rainy day, so it was difficult to enjoy being outside, but we did our best to do so.

Another place we visited as Trinity College, the major university in Dublin. It was created so that the Irish would not have to go to England to receive an education. Interestingly, a dozen or so students receive a scholarship a year for speaking Irish. On the campus, there was a sign that said, "Please keep off the playing fields." We thought, "How can playing be done on the playing fields if people must keep off them?"

One of my favorite things about Dublin was the friendliness of the people in the city. We are used to rude waiters while out to eat, but, in Dublin, waiters were there to serve us and not the other way around. We also had interesting conversations about life in Dublin from the perspectives of two restaurant managers/owners, something we could not imagine doing in Slovakia.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall Update

Greetings again!

The school year has started and I am back in Slovakia for one more year. This year, I am teaching three different subjects with five classes total. I am teaching Reading and Writing to first-year students, Introduction to Literature to second-year students, and British Literature for fourth-year students. I am pleased with the progress of my first-year students, who did not know much English coming into the year. They are getting very excited about learning English and the learning curve is quite steep, but they are doing well so far.

I have moved into an new apartment. I am living with two guys now, Jon and Carsten. They are both teaching at the same school as me. I knew both of them before we moved in, and we get along quite well together. To start the year, we had a grill that we borrowed from one of the other school apartments that no one was using. We grilled for three straight evenings. However, this did not make the neighbors very happy.

Last week, a student asked me to record something for Slovak Television. They wanted me to do a voice recording to gather support to host a congress in 2013 in Bratislava. So, I said that I would do the recording and went to a recording studio. It was quite an experience. They had me read from a script and whenever I made a mistake, the man recording it would have me start back from wherever I hadn't made a mistake and I would do it again. My voice might be heard all over Europe, imagine that. And I thought I was the quiet one of the family.

Another interesting part of being in Slovakia has been the World Cup qualifying matches. Slovakia is one win away from going to the World Cup in soccer (some of my students would not be happy with me for calling it soccer). However, there is only one game left. They were only one win away for the last two games, and they lost one game and they tied another. The fans are starting to get nervous. It reminds me of a certain team from Detroit that nearly maybe should the playoffs.

Well, that's all for the update from me. I hope all is well with you wherever you are!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Baseball in Slovakia

For the last month, I have been practicing with a Slovak baseball team, "The Last of the Mohycans". Most of the players on the team are from Bratislava and one of the towns nearby. We have had practices most on Sunday afternoons. I got on the team because one of my former students asked me and my friend and colleague Jon to play. Our first tournament was Sunday.

We played in Nitra, which is about an hour east of Bratislava. One of the players picked Jon and I up at 9 in the morning and we picked up other players along the way to Nitra. Our first game was against Topolcany. I am not sure where Topolcany is but it is farther away from Bratislava than Nitra.

My teammates gave me nearly all the essential equipment for baseball: a jersey, a hat, and pants. Yet, I lacked baseball shoes, baseball socks, and a belt. If I looked as bad as I felt, it must have been pretty bad. I wore a pair of long white socks that my brother left for me when he came and a very old pair of running shoes.

I started out playing second base and eventually moved to first base. First base was a better choice for me because it's a little easier for me to catch the ball than to throw the ball.

The game didn't go as well as we hoped. Our team could not hit the ball very well. Our pitchers had many walks and our defense had some silly errors. We lost 14-7 in six innings, I believe. It was a closer game than it seems. We had a chance to win until the last inning when they put four more runs onto the scoreboard (they didn't actually have a scoreboard, or a pitcher's rubber).

The second game was much better. It was so much better than I felt bad for the other team. I stopped caring about the score when it was 20-2. I know that we scored 2 or 3 more runs and they scored 2 more runs. Their pitchers couldn't throw a strike to save their lives. I felt bad for them. They couldn't hit the ball either (kind of like our team in the first game).

I am unsure when our next tournament will be, but it will be in a few weekends. We many things to improve before the next games. 1-1 is not a bad start for the season.

I will say that stepping onto the field felt strange. After my last game at Sexton six years ago, I never thought I'd play another inning again in my life. It felt good to hit the ball again. It felt good to throw the ball to first to get an out. It felt good to talk a little chatter while waiting for the pitcher to throw the ball. Too bad I was chattering in English and nobody could really understand what I was saying, except for Jon.

For those who want to call the Lansing State Journal and post my stats: I batted 3 for 4 in the first game with 2 RBIs, a double, and two runs scored. I was satisfied with my stats. In the second game, I batted 1 for 3 with two BBs, a HBP, and 2 runs scored.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Stockholm Day Five

Today we went to Vaxholm, an island with a fortress on a small island just 400 meters away from it. To get to Vaxholm, we had to take an hour boat ride. The ride was interesting because we could see some of the islands around Stockholm.

We walked around Vaxholm for about 40 minutes before finding the tourist office, which we needed to find to figure out how to get to the fortress. We could not understand why a town would put their tourist information office in a place that it difficult to find and why they would not have good directions at least to find it.

After seeing Vaxholm, we took the boat back to Stockholm. Upon arriving back in Stockholm, we went to the Mint Museum. It may have been the most interesting museum in Stockholm. The museum has the world's first banknote and the world's biggest coin, along with a one-trillion Deutsch Mark.

As you can imagine, we had a lot of fun thinking about the world's biggest coin and how it was used and whether it was used as a shield at times or not. It's hard to tell how big the coin is, but it is rather like a shield.

The one-trillion Deutsch Mark was from the 1920s when the exchange rate was 4,200,000,000,000 Marks to 1 US dollar.

The following morning we left Stockholm and returned to Bratislava. Overall, Stockholm was a neat city to visit. It is not a must-see, but it is a relaxing city with nice people and a few interesting points.

Stockholm Day Four

As Stockholm is a city surrounded by numerous islands, we decided a bike ride around one of the islands would be nice. So we rented bikes and biked around one of the islands. It was good to see parts of the city that we normally wouldn't have seen.

After riding bikes, we went to the Royal Apartments and the Treasury. We decided that neither of us like looking at the possessions of royal, rich dead dudes. They had such large rooms and it was a little extreme.

In the evening, we went to an Easter service. The service was in English. There were maybe 30 people at the service and it did not feel much like Easter, but it was good to attend the service.

Stockholm Day Three

I picked up my brother David at the airport in the morning. He looked pretty tired. He had been flying since around noon US time the day before. We dropped our bags off at a hotel and made our way to the Vasa Museum.

The Vasa Museum houses the only 17th century ship, the Vasa. The Vasa sunk on its maiden voyage and was not found for 333 years when someone realized where it was. They brought it up from the seafloor and then fixed it up a little. The ship was very impressive. It felt like I was in "The Goonies."

David was a little tired from his flights and it was a nice day, so we took a nap outside the Vasa Museum on a patch of grass. After a half-hour nap, we went to Skansen, a large outdoor museum with old houses and such. It looked very similar to something you might find in an old western town. Walking around Skansen, we realized that this is not the place for young, hip guys like us. It seemed that we were the only people there who were not either under 10, over 60, or was with someone under 10.

After this museum, we went into a few churches and then David was still tired, so we returned to the hotel for a nap. Then we went to dinner and got some Swedish meatballs. They were very delicious.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stockholm Day Two

The second day in Stockholm began with a hostel breakfast, followed by a walk to the National Museum, where there was a special exhibit on Pre-Raphaelites. I enjoyed the museum, but it wasn't too exciting because I cannot quite remember much about it.

After that, I walked around the old town and found the Mediterranean Museum, which I got into for free. They had some nice Egyptian artifacts and some idols put next to a mirror, which made it seem that there were twice as many. Neat trick, museum.

I had wanted to go to the Arms Museum and walked there but soon found that it was closed. The day was nice, so I read a book outside for a little while. Since many of the smaller museums were closed, I decided to talk a walk through a park and found a hill overlooking part of the city. I sat upon the hill and watched a group of Stockholmies skateboarding for a while. Some were pretty good, but it was funny to watch some of them try the same trick over and over again and fail over and over again.

That night, I tried to get to bed early because I had to wake up early the next day to go to the airport to pick up my brother. This didn't work though because I was sleeping in a 12-person dorm room. I'm not a fan of sleeping in these sorts of rooms. People just walk in and out and I am a light sleeper, so I never sleep much.

Stockholm Day One

On April 9, I flew to Stockholm, Sweden. I had the desire to visit Stockholm after spending three hours waiting in the airport when I first came to Europe. I did not have a chance to see the city at all, so I wanted to return.

I flew RyanAir, a low-budget airline similar to something like Southwest Airlines, and arrived about in a city about 80 minutes from Stockholm. Many low-budget airlines do not fly into convenient airports.

I arrived into the city at around 4 p.m. and hoped to see a museum before heading to my hostel. However, I spent around an hour not knowing which direction I was going. I left a square going in four different directions and it wasn't until the fourth time that I got it right. I arrived at the museum just after it closed.

The first day was a bit of a disappointment because I could not see much of the city or any museums; however, I noticed a little convenient store that I hadn't seen in years: 7-Eleven.

According to Wikipedia, there are 77 7-Elevens in Sweden, most of them being in Stockholm. I was so amazed because it seemed at every 7-Eleven in Lansing closed and turned into a liquor store. I came to the conclusion that 7-Eleven went under. (Note: they didn't have real Slurpees. They have something similar to Slurpees, but they do not taste half the same. And I didn't feel like I could mix the flavors.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Little Town in North Carolina

A paper that a student handed in today has brought a smile to my face every time I remember it. The assignment was to have a conversation with five people from five different countries and then write about those conversations and what was learned.

The student wrote that she speak with a person from Britain, Czech Republic, Serbia, a country I cannot remember, and Usa (pronounced "oo-sa"). Over the summer, my parents and I decided we were going to try to learn as many different countries in the world. All I could say is that it's not in Europe. Remembering back to our studies, I could not think of a country named "Usa." On the paper, beside Usa, I wrote, "Where is this country?"

In the paper, the student writes that the person she interviewed from Usa is from North Carolina.

My first thought was: "Oh, Usa must be a little town in North Carolina."

"Is that near Raleigh?" I was tempted to ask.

Remember what two and two equals, I realized the mistake: Usa was America.

Now I begin to wonder: who make the greater mistake - the student or me? The student did not capitalize all of the letters to USA and I assumed that the student would not make such a simple mistake.

I have now decided to I might start calling America "Usa" from now on. Perhaps it will help me remember that we all make the silliest mistakes at times.

Thank you to everyone in Usa who is reading my blog.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some Things Are Just Hard to Explain

Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still (from T.S. Eliot “Burnt Norton”).

The residents of Bratislava must find it strange to observe a bearded man wearing a “There’s A Little Hero in Us All” hat and a Luther College sweatshirt running through their quiet neighborhood where no one runs.

This reminds me of my glorious days running Cross Country at J.W. Sexton High School and the neighborhood kids who used to ask, “What are you running for?” Our favorite response was, “The police (pronounced “pole-eece” like “fleece”).” The response was anywhere from, “Oh, shoot” to hearing nothing but seeing scared faces. Running from the cops seemed to be the only appropriate answer in a neighborhood where the only reason to run was that you just stole something. Explaining the sport “Cross Country” never worked. They always thought we would run 50-100 miles. Some things are just hard to explain.

Without a car or any other measuring device, I have no ability to track my distance, so my only way to track myself is by time. Before running, I put a particular number of songs, usually taking up 45 minutes to an hour, onto my mp3 player. Then I leave the apartment, turn on the music, and run until the music stops. Sometimes when I am running, the music runs out and I want to go a little farther. When that happens, I quickly put a few more songs on the mp3 player.

Usually, I run up a seemingly never-ending hilly street near my apartment and make my way back and forth up the hill before returning down the hill through side streets. I run up a street that looks enticing, then down that street. I see a street that I have never been down before and take that street. I see an elderly woman walking toward me, I turn around and run in the opposite direction before I can get the “why are you running?” look. I see a beautiful view of the reconstruction of the castle and then I leave the view. Remembering it and thinking five years is a long time to close a castle, I return to the view. I might run down a particular street three or four times in a span of ten minutes.

Usually near the beginning of my run, I make my way down one street that leads to a long flight of stairs. I run up these stairs like Rocky Balboa and, when I reach the top, instead of triumphantly throwing my arms into the air, I sigh and begin what would be a 20-minute mile until I feel like I will no longer die. Sometimes I say to myself, “Let’s do that again” and I take the windy road back to the bottom and find the stairs again. Twice is always enough.

“I just don’t understand why Americans run,” a Slovak friend said today. “It is bad for the knees and the hips.”

“If knee problems is that worst that can happen, the worst looks appealing,” I think.

“Running brings me some kind of peace,” I attempted to explain. I felt unsatisfied with my response and I imagine my friend did as well.

If I was to answer again, I would like to say, “One day, I will be lying in a hospital bed with a feeding tube putting the necessaries into my body and a catheter removing the unnecessaries. One day.” Some things are just hard to explain.

Why do we run? Perhaps merely to see how far we can go. Everything, including getting out of this chair, has positives and negatives and we cannot escape the inevitable. Positives – I will be able to stretch my legs and relieve myself. Negatives – I might lose my train of thought. The inevitable – the feeding tube and the catheter.

A month ago today I received an e-mail inviting me to return to Bratislava for another year. Today, I must give my reply.

My contract is a one-year contract, renewable upon the desire of both parties. Originally, I had intended to stay in Slovakia for two years, thinking that if I invest one year in a place that I might as well invest two. I no longer think of staying as an investment but something that I desire to do and something that I think I could do well.

Most coincidentally, my class discussed Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” this Friday. How strange that I would be noting my intention upon which road I would travel this weekend? Some things are just hard to explain.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back (from: Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”)

When I am running, I often take a particular road and this road leads to another road that looks like it needs someone running on it and so on and so on. “Way leads on to way” and, before, we know it, we are somewhere else. Not three years ago, I was training for the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon on the simple, flat streets of Columbus. Somehow, after taking a right on Mound Street, adding another kilometer to my run, instead of turning around, brought me to a street overlooking a city already an adult for hundreds of years while Columbus wasn’t even in diapers.

We might blame this road on Stony Lake Lutheran Camp to which I gave four of my “best” summers and a certain Filipino who taught me that it is possible to love two places on opposite ends of the earth at once and, anywhere you go, you are going to miss someone. We might blame this road on going away from home for college and looking at the world as more than 3320 Inverary Dr. We could obviously blame this road on my parents who I can never remember telling me to be back by midnight.

Though I create my playlist for a certain period of time, sometimes I want to run longer and I add more songs. Yet, I know that eventually I will become too tired to run. But, I am not so tired today. I could run up the seven-minute hill once more. I could convince the gardener who watches me run the stairs twice that I am a bit crazy. I could take in one more view of the red-rooftops of the city. A few more songs on the mp3 player will do.

Nothing can replace knowing that there is an empty chair beside the window at the dinner table for family dinners or an empty pew for the weddings of good friends or countless empty (“Dan-free”) hours that my friends and family spend doing many activities that I absolutely love.

Though we see little of each other, I think about my friends and family often. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t look at a plate of noodles and poppy seed at lunch and wonder what my family would say about it (For the record: Diane would probably stiffen her lip at the sound of the meal. David would probably remark about it sounding disgusting. Ma would probably be nice about eating it and then say she didn’t like it later. Pops would probably enthusiastically eat it because “you got to do what the people do here”). A day doesn’t go by that I don’t hear “Country Roads”, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, or “End of the World” and wish any one of my great friends would emphatically sing it with me. Some things are just hard to explain.

What if I had turned around instead of turning right onto Mound Street? What if I had stopped running after the second mile in Indy three years ago when I could have sworn my knee was going to snap? What if I didn’t cut off my locks of love (and the beard) two days later? What if I went to graduate school after Capital? What if I went home in July and got a teacher’s certificate and planted myself back in America? What if I stayed here another year?

What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation (From T.S. Eliot “Burnt Norton”).

Some things are just hard to explain.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Saturday, February 14 - Thessaloniki, Greece

In December, eleven of us bought tickets to fly from Vienna to Thessaloniki and then tickets from Athens to Vienna.

As this day was Valentine's Day, the airline we were flying on, SkyEurope, had a special promotion: come with the person you love to the ticket counter and show your love with a kiss and receive a free ticket. As three of us were about to go through security, we asked someone if we could receive a voucher for a future trip. We were told that this is possible. So there were three of us: two boys and one girl. One of us needed to find another girl to pretend to be in love with one of the guys. So the other guy, Allan, called over the nearest girl he could find and we tried to explain the situation to her. She was a Spanish girl named Karen. I realized that if I was going to get a free plane ticket, it would be me who would have to kiss her. She didn't seem to understand, or at least seemed highly skeptical. So we went to the ticket office and said we wanted to show our love to receive a free ticket. The lady at the counter just gave us a piece of paper to fill out and, thankfully, I did not have to kiss a complete stranger. A few days later, I received an e-mail that gave me a promotion code for a free plane ticket.

Though there were eleven of us together, we each had different plans, some of which overlapped. I was going to be traveling with my friend Amy and we were going to try a project called "Couch Surfing." This is a website on the Internet in which people offer to host others in their apartments and houses. After arriving in Thessaloniki, we had trouble getting from the airport to the center of the city (In Greece, I found that information is poor for public transportation). So, we were supposed to meet our host at a certain time in front of a monument, but Amy did not quite know exactly what he looked like but knew his name. Then a car pulled up out of nowhere, and I jokingly said, "Looks like we're getting picked up." She laughed, but then two guys got out of the car and approached us and began to ask where we were from. We both figured these were our hosts, so Amy said, "Are you here for us?" We received a blank look and a quick end to the conversation. Eventually we found our host, Jairo, a Nicarguan who studies in Greece. He was a very gracious host, letting us stay in an extra room in his apartment. He showed us around the city and took us to a nice restaurant.

Sunday, February 15 - Thessaloniki
Amy and I walked around Thessaloniki, seeing some of the sites, the Church of Demitrius and the White Tower. Then I met with some other people and went to an archaelogical musuem. It wasn't too great though. We learned here that nearly everything closes at 3 p.m. Public officials only work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In the evening, we found a nice restaurant that had some live music and one of the members from our group asked the musicians if we could sing a song for them. Everyone in the restaurant loved the song we played and asked us to sing another. I cannot imagine doing that in my own country or in the country I live in, but perhaps when we stepped out of our comfort zones, we were able to step further.

Monday, Feburary 16 - Kalampaka
In the morning, Amy and I took a train to Kalampaka, a town just below Meteora, a complex of monasteries atop rock pillars ( I was blown away by the beauty of these monasteries and the view from them. Bond fans will remember that Meteora was featured in "For Your Eyes Only."

The only downside to this day was my imprudence to think that we could find the path to walk back down to the city through the forest. One could either drive up to the monasteries or hike. We hiked up just fine but apparently didn't go the appropriate way, so when we were walking back down, we couldn't find the path. It was getting dark quickly and we bushwacked for about 40 minutes before realizing it was time to go back up the hill. The climax was a 15 foot cliff to which I said, "We could always jump down. It wouldn't hurt too much." Thankfully, we thought that one through. If we jumped down, there was no getting back up. I am able to laugh about it now with a few cuts from bushwacking, but my traveling partner Amy is still at the point of no longer questioning my every decision.

February 17 - Kalampaka and Athens
We decided to stay the night in the town at a small motel. We walked up to the monasteries again and stayed on the path while going up and while going down. In the afternoon, we took a train to Athens. Amy and I planned on staying with a Greek family who we found on Couch Surfing. We arrived into Athens at 10 p.m. and had no idea where to go. We called Konstantinos, our host, and he told us to take the Metro to a certain stop and he would pick us up. Staying with Konstantinos and his wife Daniela, we were humbled by their hospitality. Their generously was at the point where I began to question why they were so nice. When we arrived at their house, we had Dominos with them and their 14-year-old daughter Anna. In the morning, they fed us breakfast and took us to the bus station. Why would they pick us up from the Metro stop? Why would they drive us to the bus station? Why would they feed us? We were complete strangers and they treated us like family, even better than family. To make matters worse, they did not grudgingly perform these tasks; they were happy to help us. I cannot say enough good words about their hospitality.

February 18 - Delphi
Amy and I took a bus to Delphi to visit the site of the ancient oracle. We arrived only an hour before its close. Ancient Delphi is situated along a mountain range. It has a spectacular view and walking among the ruins brought us to wondering what life was like for a Greek during the days of the Oracle.

February 19 - Athens
This was our only full day in Athens. We began with a walk around the Acropolis. I loved walking around the Acropolis, looking at the Parthenon and temples and theatres, wondering about what sorts of people walked through there and about Socrates and Plato and other great philosophers. The Acropolis is above a hill and was very windy, but one could see the whole city of 5 million people (the same as the number of people in Slovakia).

February 20 - Athens to Vienna
This morning we saw the Athens Archaeological Musuem. There were many great statues, but Amy wanted to see the vases but the vase room was closed. I was determined that we get in to see the vases. So I asked the receptionist and he said no. Then I asked one of the art watchers (I am not sure what the title is but it is the person who just makes sure no one hurts the works of art). Two of them said that I should ask the receptionist again and say that I came from America to see the vases. So I asked him again and he said maybe but I had to ask someone else. I asked that other person and she had to ask someone else. Then that person said it would be okay. So that person had to go get another person to walk us through the vase musuem. In total, we counted seven people we had to go through to see the vases. Amy enjoyed the vases, so my persistance was worth it. In the afternoon, we flew back to Vienna.

In summary:
The greatness of my trip is hard to explain, but I can say that this week in Greece was one of the best weeks that I have experienced. The people I met were gracious and hospitable. The sights of the cities were beautiful. I have learned many things from this trip and hope that I do not forget them too quickly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Response to Pop Quiz

As my religion students do not have textbooks, their homework is to study their notes that they take in class. This assignment is obviously problematic for those who do not pay attention in class, take notes, or at least copy their friend's notes.

Knowing that some students would rather not study, I decided that I would give them a pop quiz. I warned numerously days before the quiz, hoping that perhaps they would catch the hint that I would be quizzing them soon. (Perhaps I hinted too many times).

One of my students tends to behave poorly in class, bothering other classmates, eating random foods, walking around the room to give classmates these random foods. (Yes, yes, I know: I should have taken a course on classroom management). On perhaps two occasions has he positively contributed to the class.

Today, I read the answers from his pop quiz and thought they were worth sharing:

Question 6: Who were the Ebionites and what did they say about Jesus?"

An appropriate answer: A group of Jewish people who believed Jesus was 100% man and 0% God. They said Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies and God adopted him as the Messiah.

My student's answer: "They are stupid people with a stupid name."

Question 7: "Who were the Marcionites and what did they say about Jesus?"

An appropriate answer: A group of anti-Jewish people who believed Jesus was 100% God and 0% Man. They also believed that two gods existed: the god of the Old Testament and the god of the New Testament.

My student's answer: "A group of people who we would be better off if they never existed."

(Note: Ironically, some would actually agree with my student)

Question 8: "What did the Council of Nicea say about Jesus?"

An appropriate answer: Jesus was 100% God, 100% Man.

Or: See Nicene Creed.

My student's answer (part 1): "He is loving, kind, etc."
My student's answer (part 2): "I am not interested in what someone says. It is supposed to be about my belief. You are destroying my belief."

Puzzled by how to respond to his answer, I decided to talk to some of the other religion professors about what they would do. Knowing the student, each of them said they would write something such as "What belief is that?" or "Your belief that your god is not doing work?" One of the religion professors also said that this response is clique from people who don't actually want to work, don't know the answer, and just want to make the teacher feel bad.

After thinking about the situation, I came to a few conclusions:

1) My student picked the wrong question to say that I was destroying his belief. The other two questions would have been better to point out that I should quiz them only on the most vital points. This is a religion class on the history of Christianity. If he considers himself Christian, the answer to the question is his belief. All he had to do was say his belief and he would be right.

2) I remember telling him that Jesus was not born in a vacuum. I will have to tell him that he was not born into a vacuum either.

3) Low expectations bring happy results. I definitely didn't expect him to pass the quiz, but he did get two answers right.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lyceum Ball

On January 15, the students hosted a ball.

When I asked if I would attend the ball, my first question was "what kind of dancing is involved?"

The response: "You know, dances that take place at balls."

This would mean that I would have to learn how to dance, real dances, not the Macarena or the Cha-Cha Slide or the Chicken Dance. So, one of the teachers at the school said that she knew someone who would teach us how to dance. We would learn the waltz, the tango, the two-step, polka, and a few others.

The dance instructor spoke only Slovak except "quick quick slow...quick quick slow." Nevertheless he was very nice and these lessons (I took three of them) gave me an opportunity to practice my Slovak and my dancing at the same time. I got to dance with one of the teachers who only spoke Slovak. She taught me much on the dance floor, in the language of Slovak and dancing.

The day before the ball, one of the students told me that she had a surprise for me and the other teachers at the ball. I thought, "this can't be good. Surprises = bad." Nevertheless, the surprise was that she danced a waltz with me as the first dance when it was just teachers and students together. On the dance floor, I forgot nearly everything.

It was a good thing that I forgot nearly everything because it turned out that the ball was more of a dance than a ball. So after about 20 minutes of ball music, the DJ began to play disco music. (Note: disco music is not necessarily '70s music but music that people go out to clubs to dance to).

Tomorrow, I will be attempting another ball. My friend Joe who rafts for the National Slovak Rafting Team invited me to his Watersports Ball. I went to this ball last year and they did do actual dances. I recall my dances to polka music. I will be bringing my dancing shoes.