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in front of you in line alphabetically since 2006

Friday, June 29, 2007

operation box and other updates

When your like is run on a school calendar, June is usually a busy month. This year is no exception for us. But here's some quick news about us:

1. Last week we mentioned that we're moving everything out of our offices. It turns out that everybody's moving not just out of their offices, but the library's moving out, the computer labs are moving out, and so on. A monumental migration calls for massive moving management machines, including that so simple but so necessary mobile technology: the cardboard box.

So the principal cut a deal: last Tuesday, if you came to school with a big, empty box, you could go home. And yes, this post's title is accurate. It actually was called Operation BOX.

2. Last weekend we finally made a trip to the last country in this neighborhood that we hadn't yet visited---Austria. We joined our fellow teachers for an extended weekend bus tour of the Carinthian Alps in the Southern Austria. Our overall impression of Southern Austria is that these people are hardcore. They don't just climb mountains---they climb them and then they jump off the tops with parachutes. They don't just build roads in the mountains---they build roads through the mountains; the tunnels are miles and miles long, and when you're out of the mountains, where other countries would build over- and underpasses for their freeways, Austria builds another tunnel. It's a beautiful country, and it was a nice chance to spend time with the faculty, even if most of them don't speak very much English.

3. The good-byes continue. It's been a month already since we started, and we still have another week and a half. This weekend we're making our last trip to Sokolov before returning to Prague for packing, last visits, last meals and...ahem...getting up at the proverbial crack of dawn to catch a flight home. Please keep us in your prayers.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

joel and chrissy's summer gps

So here's a quick look at where we'll probably be over the summer. If you're in the area when we are, shoot us an email---we'll send you our new cell numbers when we have 'em.

June 30 - July 2: Sokolov, Czech Republic

July 3 - July 9: Prague, Czech Republic

July 10: 30,000 feet up for most of the day

July 11: Costa Mesa, California

July 12-15: Joel goes to Nashville for Brian and Emily's wedding

July 21-28: Pasadena, California for a week at ESI training

July 29 - August 6ish: Costa Mesa, California

August 7ish and beyond: Auburn, California

Thursday, June 21, 2007

cleaning house

So we found out yesterday that we have to move everything out of every office in the school---there's going to be some refurbishing work done this summer, and space must be cleared for the work. So we're cleaning out our desks---which is not a shock, since we'd be doing it anyway. But it all makes a convenient metaphor for...

...some "things I found" "on my desk" that I've been meaning to blog about.

1. Last weekend, as some of you may have read in our email newsletter, we went with one of our classes on a school trip. We had a great time, we're happy to say, although all day Saturday I think we walked up and down 15 or 20 (thousand) mountains.

We introduced them to s'mores, an American campfire staple, which they loved, and by loved we mean devoured in less than 15 minutes---the whole bag. We expected them to like them, but not quite to this degree (these sharing of foods experiences don't always work out).

2. We're saying our last good-byes to our students today and at the beginning of next week---Monday will be the last official day of classes.

3. In Czech current events news, a local group of mischief makers shocked weekend TV watchers when they hacked into the television feed of a Sunday morning weather update program called Panorama. The show is just 30 minutes of outside camera shots of popular Czech vacation spots mostly in the mountains so that people can get an idea what the weather is like in such and such a place. These guys hacked into the camera and presented their own version of the day, which included a flash and a mushroom cloud, which you can watch here.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

just when you thought castles were passe

A favorite comedian of ours (who is from Europe himself) has a bit about the way Americans and Europeans look at castles. Americans, he says, look at a castle and see Disneyland. The cameras come out, jaws drop, oohs and ahhs commence. Europeans, on the other hand, being residents of the world's greatest treasury of castles of all makes, models and states of repair, see a castle and say to themselves, "Now who put that bloody castle here!"

After seeing our share of castles in the Czech Republic (fun parenthetical fact: the Czech Republic has the highest ratio of castles per squre mile than any other country in the world), we've slowly come to see it from our neighbor's point of view. Castles are great, but they are after all, just castles.

Just castles. Never thought I would say that.

Anyway, in the past few months, we've been to a few "gems" that have really perked us up to castling again, including one of the crown jewels of central Czech, the Konopiste chateau (pictured above). Now this is a castle that I could live in. No drafty hallways, no cold stone walls (although admittedly, no Coldstone either), no touristy museums of medieval torture elements. And, per the requests of its last royal resident, fully equipped with 14 modern toilets, showers and a slow-moving but stupendously posh elevator.

Too---and this was the real eye-opener of the place---its aforementioned final resident, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand (best remembered for being the unfortunate victim of the assassin who kicked off World War I) left the place fully equipped with enough hunting trophies to make any Green Peace type throw in the towel. This avid (to put it mildly) hunter even documented each and every kill; the grand total came up to---I kid you not---more than 300,000 confirmed kills. At least 3,000 of those trophies hang from the walls of Konopiste. I'm pretty sure that this was the guy who shot Bambi's mom. In fact, that just may be her up there on the right.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

hail to the convoy

So last night we got about as close to the President of the United States as we probably ever will be. Our apartment in Prague faces out on the main road going to the airport, so last night at about 9pm we stood out on our balcony and watched a looooong convoy of police cars, limosines, and well, they looked like SUV's but they were probably tanks go by.

It was cool.

As you might have expected, security is intense out here. Just along our road, taxi service was suspended three hours before, all trash cans were removed, and there were yellow-vested police officers stationed at every corner. They even blocked out cell phone service as the convoy passed.

So when Vlad'a asked us this morning, "Did you see your president?" we just smiled and said yes.

"He probably wasn't in the cars," Vlad'a replied. "He probably took the subway."