Monday, November 27, 2006

Final Photos of Krakow

Know English -- will teach

Just to let you know, we both got the highest marks possible for the Celta course, PASS A. So we are stoked about that. But Beth and I didn't exactly pound the pavement looking for jobs after our Celta course ended. The director of Education stopped by from a near-by city recruiting to fill 3 vacant positions.

Long-story-short: we talked to her. She was cool. We went to Katowice, which we heard was a terribly boring and unattractive place that noone would ever want to visit. We had a look and we liked the city. Applied for 2 of the jobs and we were hired the next day!

So now they are working out an apartment for us. She said she found a good place, but isn't sure if Booster is cool, so we are still waiting. Odds are we will move there on Wednesday or Thurs. The train ride is about 1.5 hrs. So that's not too bad. We are still close enough to this amazing city of Krakow.

During the visit to Katowice, we visited the school and it's really great. It's got all the support services you'd want and the staff are really cool. There are like 24 teachers there and one is from the US so that's cool. Atlanta to be specific. It should be fun getting to know the crew.

So by next week at this time we should be official TEACHERS like our moms! Yay! It runs in the family! We will be teaching classes of up to 12 students of varying ablilities. We could teach anyone from 7 year olds to upper interemediate or better. The variety supposedly keeps it interesting. We will let you know!

Ah, the Mon-tines...

Last week, Bhadri and I discovered the joys of the mon-tines. (Mon-tines = mountains. Polish people pronounce mountains as mon-tines, and to be honest, it's just so much more fun to say mon-tines!) We travelled down to Zakopane, a beautiful resort village in the Tatra Mtns, last Monday by bus. It was only an hour and a half trip from the bustle of the city to the sleepy mountain town. We hit Zakopane in peak non-tourist season! It's packed during the summer months and is always busy during the holidays, so we managed to find the perfect time to visit.

We got a great B&B a few minutes walk from the forest; and although they told us it was a double, the beds were 2 twins/singles pushed together. And they wouldn't've been complete without a wooden bar running between them! But it was warm, we had the patio out back all to ourselves, and we were equipt with a table and chairs for our morning breakfast.

The first day we were there, we just strolled around town, grabbed some Oscypik--the most tasty smoked, mountain cheese ever!, and had a lunch of cheese, bagel-bread, and Zywiec beer. It was glorious! Then we met up with our friends Alex and Kristin (from the course), who had invited us up, and hung out with them for the rest of the night. I say "night" because it starts getting dark here by 3:15 and is completely dark by 4:00--it really messes with your mind!

The next day we woke up early and caught the funicular with Alex and Kristin. We rode it to the top of the mountain and hiked lazily for a while around the top. Eventually, when our plan to ride the ski lift down was foiled (it wasn't running this time of year), we decided to hike down. We found a good trail and took it all the base. We were so lucky--the day was gorgeous and we had such good friends to accompany us, too! We even learned a few new special effects on our camera (ref: the leaning TEFL teachers photo)...

That night we went out to eat Polish food and I tried Gzone Piwo (hot, spiced beer). I do have to say, I adore the gzone! We've been nursing a bottle of Grzaniec Galicjski, a bottled mulled wine that is fantastically delicious, for the past few weeks...and now I know about the joys of mulled beer, too. Ah, Poland!

The next day, Alex and Kristin decided to head back to Krakow. We opted to stay and go for a hike in the opposite direction, towards the Tatras (you can see them in the background of a few of the pics here). There was a national park back in the forest where we were hiking, but they didn't allow dogs. Yes, you know what that means: we brought Booster to the mon-tines! Although it was his first trip, Booster took to the mountains like a beetroot takes to barszcz soup. Adorned with his new, blue jacket (with hood for style), he trotted the trails and touched each hiker heart with a spark of jolliness. He really was the king of the woods.

We roamed through the forest for a while before we decided to turn around and head home. Booster was completely zonked, and Bhads and I were sore until yesterday. We thought we had gotten more in shape since we'd been walking so much here in Krakow, but ooohhh were we wrong!

On the way to the bus stop, we loaded up on some more cheese (photo provided) and I just finished the last of it today for didn't last long! I am officially addicted to it. I think we spent about 20 zloties on just oscypik alone!

It was a fabulous trip, and there's no doubt in my mind that we'll be back to the mon-tines sometime soon!

Still Gotek

I think Bhads or I mentioned this outing a few blogs ago. But my friends Kristin and Alex uploaded a few choice photos to our computer the other day, and we want to share them!

A couple of weeks ago, we went to this great, cellar pub called Stil Gotek (pron: Steel Go-teck). Our students entertained us, and laughed at our awful Polish pronunciation. They tried to drill us using CELTA techniques they'd picked up on--they were good teachers, too! Our friend Melinda stood on a chair and sang a couple of blew us away! There's a pic of her singing in this lot. And the rest are just a whole bunch of expats and Polish friends hangin' out.

Q: What Does Polish Karaoke Look Like?

A: this!

This is a very untimely post, but we thought it might still be relevant. But then again, when is karaoke not relevant? A couple of weeks ago, our students took us out karaoke-ing. The place was hidden back in a building off the main square, and we felt like we were in a elongated closet with padded walls! Smoking in pubs/restaurants hasn't been outlawed in Poland yet, so we probably inhaled about a pack of cigarettes each. The walls were great--white cloth sewed together to make walls. At one point in the "wall" it was ripped, and I daringly stuck my hand through to suss out what might be on the other side. I reached my hand in to my elbow and then felt a cold, damp wall. It was better that the cloth was there! But really the atmosphere was a-rockin' and the company wasn't so bad either.

Here are some pics of that fabulous night. You'll see: our student-friends Aga and Patrycja, with Melinda our teaching bud, jammin' out on the mic; Bhads and I trying to figure out what the screen read so we could try to sing along; a sample of what real-deal Polish karaoke looks like with a popular Polish song on the screen; me with 3 of our student-friends--Lucasz, Greg, and Mariusz; and Bhads, his thumb, and our teaching bud Bob taking it all in.

It doesn't get much better than that!

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign!

It's a good thing we're not driving here in PL, b/c we really wouldn't know what's what. All the signs are cryptic illustrations. They seem basic, but only if you know what they mean!

One thing that has blown our minds: the "stop" sign is universal. Whaaa?! Half-way across the world, the "stop" sign is identical to the ones in Texas. We feel connected!

Here's a sampling of some of the road signs...see if you can guess which is which!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The dishes are done, man!

So Beth and I have completed the month-long intensive training course that is CELTA. The course was a challenge, most days running very long, but we have both done very well. Not quite sure of the final marks yet -- we should have word of that on Tuesday. We have a pretty good idea of what we'll get, but you never know until you know.

The possible scores are Pass, Pass B and Pass A (Pass A being the best). It's an accumulative score based on the progress made during the course and how competent your teaching ability is upon completion of the course.

So now we need to look for jobs. We are visiting a school next week in Katowice. It's about 60km from Krakow. There are two positions open, so we'll see what happens. The school is very good and we would learn a lot and get some great experience. The downside: it's not Krakow. From what I've heard, it's not really beautiful or anything special. But we'll see how the visit goes. I don't want to get ahead of myself.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cold? What Cold?

Here are some pictures of us surviving the cold these past few weeks. Actually, it's been beautiful! Booster is well-equipt, and we are snuggling up w/ him and lots of hot tea. Have a toasty day!

Teachers & Teachees

Ahoy! So we've come up for air. This past week has been absolutely crazy. It was week three of the CELTA course and we were losing our minds planning lessons, analysing grammmar and vocab, getting 4 hrs of sleep per night, and battling minor but annoying illnesses. But alas, it's week 4! The final week. Actually, despite the intensity of the course, we've had a brilliant time. We've learned more than we thought possible in 4 weeks, and have made some really good friends.

A week ago, our friends Alex and Bob invited us over for a pasta dinner (seen in one of the pics). We had little picked veggies on tiny skewers, yummy cheeses, and pretzels for appetizers (ahh, Polish delites!), good red wine (almost all the wine we've tried here has been super sweet), and a cross-cultural pasta dish. I'll explain that in a moment, but first a preface: Bhadri has noticed that almost all the pasta sauce in jars here tastes like ketchup. Alex and Bob found one that looked different (and looked tasty by the design of the label, but of course it was all in Polish so the truth only lay beneath), so they bought it and tossed it in. As it turns out, it was sweet and sour sauce--so we had an Asian/Italian pasta dinner! It was pretty funny. After dinner we tried Krupnik, honey-flavored Polish vodka. I could only sip it a little and Bhad thought it was disgusting, but we're not much for the vodka. But it was so nice to have a warm dinner with new and fun friends.

Then Friday night, our students took us out on the town. We went to Still Gotek (pron: steel goe-teck), this great little underground pub that was lit mostly w/ candle light. We crammed about 15 of us into the cellar and drank Zywiec (some people had it warm w/ juice in it...I'll def have to try that soon!) and spoke English (and some really bad Polish on our behalves). It was a magical night. Our friend Melinda, who is a prof opera singer, got up on her chair and sang two AMAZING songs (one in Eng, one in Italian)...the whole place went silent, they turned off the music, the cooks came out of the kitchen, and when she was finished the whole place errupted in applause. She pointed to her drink and said if you bring me another one, I'll sing again--and they did! By the end of the night, people were dancing all around the tables to old Phil Collins hits and we got into some great convos w/ our students about major differences b/t American and Polish societies today. And of course, we had to share some traditional American culture like "hang loose"--which Bhadri kept encouraging Patricja to bite her lip or it wouldn't look authentic (she did well!). On the way home, we walked briskly (Bhad held his "unbelievably good" kebab in hand) in the cold under the Polish flags hanging from the windows and over the doors. The next day was a Polish independence day (one of several), and after that night we just felt so a part of it all!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Around Cracowia

Here's yet another glimpse into our new city. The pics always post in random order, but I'd like to comment on them. It's a matching activity! (This teaching business has really gotten to me. Side note: Bhadri and I both dream in CELTA. It's infiltrated our subconsciouses. Bad news bears. We live teaching all day long 8 to 8 at the school, then lesson planning and assignments at night until 11-ish, then when we finally have a chance to escape to follows us! Everytime I turn over at night I think: make a smooth transition between tasks and be sure to make your instructions clear...)

In no particular order-

Picture 1: Booster found a twin-dog named Sara in the Planty (pron: Plahn-tih), the garden that encircles the old town. They played for about 5 minutes in the grass: Booster leashed, Sara unleashed. Booster was like those chair-swings at the fair, swinging around and around Bhadri at the center, chasing Sara or being chased by Sara nobody knew. I swear he caught some air at one point!

Picture 2: Some cool grafiti found around our neighborhood. I don't know what it says, but the Smurfs were a childhood favorite so it gets my stamp of approval. Clever tagging.

Pictures 3 & 4: Some great buildings in our neighborhood. Some of the most elegant buildings are just left to self-destruct here. Inside these buidlings, they are usually renovated and kept up nicely, but the fascade is left to the elements. I think they're beautiful.

We miss and love all our friends and family. Have a warm and cozy weekend!

A Park in Krakow in Autumn

So, let me first make a note about this blog title. Yes, I am aware that I just wrote "Autumn," implying that it is now Autumn. However, the Autumn season seemed to come and go within a week, and I just didn't have the time during the season to blog about it. We were wearing jeans and light sweaters about a week ago, the weather was sunny and in the mid 70's, and summer was just waning. One morning last weekend I looked out of our kitchen window and noticed that a tree in the courtyard out back had turned brilliantly yellow! The leaves were solid, sparklingly mustard (Heines, not German). As we left for teaching that day, we noticed that the whole city had been transformed into all shades of Autumn. Beautiful! Two days later, leaves started to fall. Yesterday we had our first snow, and it's been snowing ever since. It's a nice, constant flurry; big, fat flakes for a while, then tiny ones for a while, then back to the big ones. This is definitely Winter, so Autumn was here for a week.
Because of the chilly temps, we might not make it to this park for some time. But at least we know about it now. We found a park. And a beautiful park at that. Some special features: a paddle boat pond (complete with ducks!) that we're guessing could double as an ice rink in Winter, winding lanes, old statues of poets and saints, an open air photo installation on Pope John Paul II (who was from Krakow and is uber-famous here), fountains, a cafe at the entrance serving coffee and beer, a pretzel/bagel cart just outside the entrance selling the tasties for 1 zloty ($0.30!), a bike/skate ramp (totally x-game style) that all the 8 year old boys had gravitated to, and hippies! Right outside of this park is another park. This might sound odd, but it works. The park outside the beautiful park is more like Zilker in Austin (see pic of Bhads and Boos)--a big expanse of grass for the doggies to stretch their paws...and do their business. A side note: people in Poland tend to not put too much emphasis on cleaning up after their pets in public. It's not unusual to find doggie presents in the middle of the sidewalk in the city center, and no one frowns on dog walkers without pooper scoopers. Like many things, at first we were shocked and now it's just normal.

We're slowly, but surely, starting to discover more local Krakowian nuances. It was a grand day out, and we'll make our way over there again.

Our Entry-Way is Huge!

Hello all! I thought some of you might be interested to see how large and useless our entry-way is. Except for walking in, housing the rug that provides a soft & warm foot vacation from the otherwise cold wooden floors, and harboring our lovely big-dial phone, it is one awkward waste of space. Literally. We cannot figure out what all that space could be used for! But that's the beauty of European apartment buildings. They weren't built for logic, just for character. And I support that. It's Friday and I'll raise my glass to character filled entry ways!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Halloween, School & Snow

Happy Halloween to everyone! Hope you all had loads of fun. Halloween seemed like any other day here. I did see two guys dressed up walking up our street, but other than that, nothing. They were teaching some of the younger kids at our language school how to trick or treat. So that tells me something. In USA that's a skill that kids have before they can even talk.

The course is keeping us busy. M-F 8 am-@9pm before we get home. Long days. But we are learning a lot. I have already taught 4 lessons and I will teach my 5th one tomorrow. It's a 60 min lesson. So I've been planning my tail off. But even though it's hard work, I'm having lots of fun doing it. It's really exciting to learn again.

IT"S SNOWING right now. I woke up and looked at the window sill and saw a little frost and thought "hmm it must have froze a little last night." Then my eyes panned up and everything was covered in white! It's beautiful. It stopped just long enough for us to make the 20 min. walk from our apt. to school and now the fluries are falling again. There must be at least 3 in. on the trees.