December and January

The past two months have flown by- I can’t believe it’s February already. Christmas seems like ages ago, but I remember it as a really nice time being back at home spending time with family and friends, going back to all the same ordinary places that are always nice to visit when you’ve spent time away from home, and eating all of the food from the fridge (sorry mum and dad).

I only worked a few weeks of December- the lessons were all Christmas based, mostly teaching the pupils about Santa Claus and our traditions, as the way they celebrate is slightly different from us. Like, they eat carp and potato salad for Christmas, open presents on Christmas Eve, and celebrate St Mikulaš as the figure who gives them presents! Amongst the festive Christmas markets, there were Mikulas processions where adults dress up as him, and also as Cheb (?) the ‘baddie’ who will put you in a sack and drag you to hell if you’ve been bad. I subbed an adult business class a few times so I took the chance to learn about some more traditions from them too- like floating a candle in the bath to predict your fate.

We also visited Dresden one weekend, for the Christmas markets. I’d never been to Germany before, so it was a great day and I’m eager to return- it’s only two hours by train so there’s no problem there! It definitely put me in the festive spirit and we visited a few different markets, one of my favourites being the medieval-style one.

Whilst flying home on the 18th was relatively easy, flying back into Prague wasn’t! Unfortunately, due to the fog, other delayed flights and a drunk passenger, my 18.30pm flight to Prague was delayed until 10pm, meaning we didn’t touch down until 12.30am 😦 I’d planned to take the metro back to the flat but as it all stops at midnight, I had to take an expensive taxi otherwise I would’ve been very much stranded. By the time I got into bed it was 2am, and I had to be up at 6am for a 5 hour back-to-back day. However the Monday wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated and it was nice seeing the pupils again. Hearing about their Christmas and what they got made me feel so old though- I either hadn’t heard of half of the toys/gadgets they raved about or as they showed me their shiny new phones/tablets/games consoles it made me think about how I didn’t get any of that until I was in my teens! So it made me feel my age, the gripe old age of 22 that is.

January went really quickly too- one of the other English teachers with us went on the school ski trip for a week, so me and the other English teacher had to halve her classes with ours. But since she’s come back, we’ve gone back to starting the next unit in their textbooks and generally returning to normal. The new term started yesterday, which meant all of our classes changed. We split each class of 30ish into 3 so each teacher has around 8-10 pupils each, so we have just swapped the teachers basically. So although I am teaching a ‘new’ group of Grade 2/3/4’s, I sort of know who they are and what they’re like already, so it’s not like we’re strangers or anything. I will miss my old classes though, I feel like after 5 months I got to know them quite well and watched them improve. We’ve also been told we have to start giving them tests at the end of each unit each month- we’ve given Grade 3 a test already which they all did really well in, so it’s a promising start!

I’ve kept myself very busy outside of school too. A few of us teachers started a book club- we read a book each month, we started in December with A Thousand Splendid Suns (really, really good book which led me to read the equally-excellent The Kite Runner and I now want to read And The Mountains Echoed). For January, we read a Laurent Binet infonovel called HHhH. It’s a factual book sort of written like a novel, kind of, about the assassination of Heydrich by two Czechslovakian parachutists during WW2. His assassination took place in Prague, where he died in hospital from his wounds. Binet describes how the two parachutists, Kubiš and Galbičk, hid in the crypt of a church on Russovka with a few other parachutists. However the SS located them, tried to (unsuccessfully) shoot through the narrow window, before getting a fire team involved and tried flooding the place. In the end, the parachutists realised they were trapped and killed each other so that by the time the SS reached them, they were dead and couldn’t give themselves in to the SS. So we decided to visit this church, as the crypt is open for the public to see! Outside the church you can still see the bullet holes in the church wall, which is crazy but amazing. There is a small plaque and relief for the two parachutists amongst the bullet holes, with dedications of candles and flowers.

Then we went inside to see the crypt, but me being me I left my purse at the flat so I had to go back for that 😦 I’ll make sure I go inside the crypt some point this month though. Once I got my purse, I met the others at Dejvicka and we caught the coach to Lidice. This was a small village about half an hour outside of Prague which was completely destroyed by the SS. Lidice is written about in HHhH, so we visited the flat, plain village which now hosts a memorial site. It was really sombre and fragile walking around looking at where the school, church, barn, houses etc. once stood, where the mass grave was, and bronze figures of the Lidice children who were sent to the concentration camps or gassed in trucks. The women were sent to concentration camps, the men shot outside the barn, and I think 3 children were ‘selected’ to be Germanized and replaced with new families. There was also an exhibition which had loads of photographs of the villagers, some images taken just day before its destruction. It was a really sad but interesting visit. We returned to Prague and went to a restaurant called The Parachutist just opposite the crypt, full of war items and photographs of Kubiš and Galbičk, where we ate and discussed the book.

And for the weekend that’s just passed, we visited Kutna Hora for the day. It’s about an hour away from Prague and we visited three churches here. The first was rather bizarre; inside the church, the entire place is decorated with real human bones. Coats of arms, chandelier, the ‘artists’ signature, the small caves, all completed with bones… like all real. I still can’t get over it. It was fine to begin with but then the longer you stayed in there, the weirder it got. Like they seriously had a massive chandelier MADE OF PELVIC BONES AND KNEE JOINTS (am I the only one finding that weird?!). The bones and skulls are from the enemies during the Hassite Wars. Lots of bones, lots of weirdness. Anyway after this we visited two (normal) churches, went for an amazing lunch, and sipped on thick hot chocolate as we trekked through the snow back to the train station.

So it’s been a very busy 2015 already, but it’s good! Hoping that February will be just as action-packed!


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