Saturday, January 25, 2003

Pride Goeth; Falling; Waterslides

Happy New Year to everyone. It's been quite some time since I last wrote, and I fear that as the year progresses my writings will take place further and further apart. I've been quite involved with life here, and as I get closer and closer to leaving for good, I'll become more and more involved.

A lot has happened in the past several months. I went back home for Christmas, and then returned to Prague for New Year's. It was very nice to be home and spend time with family and friends.

Anyway, I don't have any big adventures to relate here, but I will share a few experiences that have occured since my last newsletter. Firstly, I went ice-skating for the psuedofirst time (I had been on iceskates for maybe 5 minutes when I was about 12 during a freak deep freeze in Tennessee.) My D1 beginner class took several of the teachers out a few weeks before Christmas break. We went to a small ice-skating rink and I borrowed one of my student's brother's iceskates. They were a little too big for me, but they worked. I found out that I enjoy ice-skating quite a bit, and it's too bad we don't get more cold weather in Tennessee.

Remarkably, I didn't fall during my entire first session of ice-skating. I spent about 5 minutes getting used to the feel of the skates and figuring out the similarities and differences between rollerblades and ice-skates. That took me around the rink about 6 or 7 times, and then I let someone else borrow the skates for a while and went to buy some hot chocolate.

I was also making a futile attempt to encourage a student, Pavlina, who has been trying to stop smoking not to go outside and light up a cigarette. She didn't listen to me, but was amused by my valiant effort. She also told me that she's been smoking since she was 12 (she's about 20 now, I think), and that her father still doesn't know that she smokes. I don't know how that's possible. She said her mother and sister know, but her father isn't tolerant, so she hasn't told him. The interesting lives of students...

Anyway, after that I put the skates back on and the class played a Czech game called Baba, which is a very rude Czech word for "grandmother." The game is basically tag on ice-skates. You try to avoid whoever is "Baba" by skating around and in-between other skaters on the ice, who are not involved in your game. It's not a complex game, but it was fun. The amazing thing was that in all the darting in and out among skaters, and frantic dashes away from "Baba", I managed not to fall down. There were several times when I came close, but somehow I always managed to stay up. Chandra, another of our teachers, wasn't so lucky. She had fallen down earlier and landed on her hands with elbows fully extended. This jammed her elbow, and we think it caused a small fracture. She went to the doctor and had it x-rayed, but they couldn't see anything. She was in a lot of pain though, and they put her arm in a cast which she wore for the next several weeks, extending into Christmas break.

I found out later that she, Randy, Tim, and Scott had removed the cast themselves while on vacation in Switzerland. They used a Swiss Army knife (in Switzerland, no less) and a large rock to both cut and pound this plaster cast off of Chandra's arm. They say they took pictures too, but I haven't seen them yet. It must have been comical though.

Another more recent experience that occured here was a trip to a town called Liberec, where our director's daughter Petra is attending university. It took place at night and by car, so I didn't see much of the town itself, but what I did see was very nice. It used to be a German town and has a large number of nice family houses.

Our purpose for going to the town was to visit an indoor water park. I didn't realize that something like this existed, and especially not in this country, but I witnessed it with my own eyes. It wasn't a huge park, and actually should be referred to as a water warehouse, but it was stock full of fine recreational opportunities. The most original was a slide that shot the rider out into a giant bowl, resembling in many ways a toilet, where he or she would continue to spin around like pennies in one of those yellow Wal-Mart vortices. After momentum was lost, they would finally plummet down the wide hole in the middle of the bowl into the pool of water waiting patiently below.

All of the teachers went on this excursion, which took place last week, and we all enjoyed it. However, this week many of us have been experiencing various illnesses. I think it's a result of poor bacterial control at the water warehouse, but it could just be coincidence. Jonny and myself have developed colds, and one other teacher was out of order for a couple of days due to extreme nausea. A couple of other people were feeling a little under the weather, but they weren't as bad.


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