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So after graduation, I decided I wasn't ready for that proverbially "real-world" quite yet, especially because I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with my life. Not to mention that the state of the U.S. economy and the correlating job market are not ideal for new college graduates. Instead, I will be embarking on a 2 leg adventure to teach English, starting in Prague at the end of August. Though I don't have a definite time-line, I plan to stay in Europe for about a year, then transition down to South America to follow the same type of lifestyle for another year or so. But as plans so often change, I am remaining very open-minded, and it's very possible that I will become enamored with one or more of these places and remain a nomad for the rest of my life. Either way, who says life after graduation can't be fun??

Diary Entries

Friday, 06 November 2009

Location: Loving the Czech Republic, Czech Republic

WARNING: This blog has the potential to be a douse, so make sure you are fortified with the proper food supply and comfort level before attempting to read this!
That being said, I sincerely apologize for those I have left hanging in the balance, if anyone. I convinced myself that the next blog I would be logging would don the title of procuring a job, but alas, it just isn’t so. This past month has been riddled with uncertainty and utter confusion as to how the hiring process works here in the Czech Republic. After hours of sitting around at wine bars and pubs, our quite brilliant TEFL group has concluded that there is absolutely no logic to it.
Let us catch up with the past month or so since I have written before I delve any deeper into the job predicament. Hmm…well, Mon and I settled quite nicely into our apartment in Nove Mesto and became pretty good friends with our awkward and might I mention slightly crazy, flatmate Louis….whom I fondly call Ouie. He is from Belgium and is here working for Eccenture. I am not sure what exactly his job description is, but it entails him speaking Dutch 98.99% of the time. The other bedroom in our flat was filled about a week after we moved in, by two Austin, Texans, ironically enough. They also journeyed here for a TEFL course, although through a different program.
Mon and I have become good friends with the Asian owners of the mini-market located directly beneath our apartment…although since we don’t speak Czech or any Asian language, and they haven’t expressed any skills in the English department, we generally keep out interactions limited to Hello, Goodbye, and hand gestures. Nevertheless they maintain a good supply of chocolate and other such treats and have become our junk food gurus.
Both Courtney and Christina returned to the States in order to procure visas and jobs before heading to South Korea next February. It was way sad to see them leave and Prague isn’t quite the same without those two crazy girls…but that seemed to be the best decision for them. Jess also made an untimely departure back to the States a few days ago. She had found a job but it wasn’t providing her with enough hours to cover all of her expenses and education debts, and is going to try her luck back in Buffalo.
Right before she left, we did do a little bit of Halloween celebrating, complete with costumes and pumpkins. We even got Ouie to dress up as a caveman…comprised of a leopard-printed blanket we found in our flat, a club made from empty toilet paper rolls we covered in this random wood-grained paper Katie found next to a trash crash can down the street…and some skillfully drawn uni-brow and 5 o’clock shadow action by yours truly. Ouie wasn’t the only one sporting the one brow look that night; Katie was a very stylish Freida Kahlo. Mon and I both went the animal route, her a bear and me a cat. Other costumes included 2 pirates, Death, and Linus from Peanuts. Altogether, we made a pretty good-looking crowd and certainly did the day justice. We hit up a party at this expats coffee-shop, where I use the term “party” loosely considering we were pretty much THE party…no seriously. But we did score a free drink and Mon won a 600 CZK gift certificate to the café, which is comparable to $30. We concluded the night at Chapeau Rouge, where a more substantial crowd resided. My only regret is that Bruce and Kylie, our favorite Aussies, weren’t able to celebrate with us because they had already made previous arrangements to meet up with relatives in Salzburg.
Mon and I finally made it to the famous Prague castle and corresponding other venues around the premises…it only took about 2 months to do so. The grounds were pretty phenomenal, as to be expected, and there were still remnants of tourist groups around, though not nearly as bad as anticipated. We toured around the St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, the Basilica of St George, which the Prague’s finest Romanesque church and Golden Lane: a 16th-century tradesmen’s quarter of tiny houses built into the castle walls (and where Franz Kafka once habited). We didn’t bother to buy an audio tour (basically a phone that you press buttons on and it speaks to you about each respective stop). Instead, we had something better….Mon and her guide book on Prague! Some interesting information about the castle: founded by Czech princes in the 9th century, the Prague Castle (Prazsky hrad in Czech) is still the official presidential residence. It is also the largest castle complex in the world, bigger than seven football fields.
Random sidenote: The US Embassy is situated not too far away from the castle, and any automobile that attempts to journey down that particular street must be stopped and thoroughly searched for bombs or whatnot before it can venture on. Interesting.
Other sights we have seen include the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, which consists of male figures in various stages of desiccation descending a concrete staircase. Below them, a metal line down the center of the steps counts the victims: 327 shot while trying to escape across the border, 170,938 driven into exile, 205,486 arrested, 248 executed and 45000 who died in prison. Additionally, we also trekked up the Petrin funicular one weekend, which for those who don’t know, is basically like a gondola in that it brings passengers up a big hill, but follows tracks on the ground instead of cables. At the top you can see a very picturesque view of the city, and the Hunger Wall, which was built in 1362 under Charles IV, constructed by the city’s poor in return for food under an early job-creation scheme. Pictures of both of those will be added soon!
Okay, I think that is enough for one entry. I will save the rest for another entry very soon….have to leave you wanting something more, right? Oh and don’t forget to keep me updated on YOUR lives as well!!!

Saturday, 03 October 2009

Location: Prague, Czech Republic

I just realised I forgot one of the most frustrating/ironic parts of our apartment viewing adventure on Tuesday....and that is, after finally reaching the flat in Prague 6, the landowner told us that we took the wrong tram. Instead of the number 22, we should have taken the 18....which coincidentally enough, we had gotten on in Prague 4 because we couldn't find the tram 11 stop, but alighted again to get on the 22. Moni and I exchanged glances that pretty much said the same thing, "That just figures." On the way back, it only took us 15 minutes back to the city center and to our hostel. Oh, the irony.

In other news, I am fairly certain I have hives. No, dad, I am not making that up......I have had these tiny red dots spring up all over my body and are driving me mad with itch. There truly is never a dull moment when traveling, and this would happen to me just when things start looking up. Oh well, things can always be worst, right? Darnit....and now since I said that, they probably will be. But going along with what Moni preaches to me, whatever bad happens to us, at least we are in Prague, which makes it 100 times more glamorous. I agree, hives in Prague makes a much better story than hives in South Carolina or Colorado. There you have it ladies and gents, my shortest entry to date. Tune in next time where you will assuredly be in for a good story, or at least, a laugh or two. Until then....CAU!

Friday, 02 October 2009

Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Well, things have vastly improved since last time I posted an entry. First things first……MON and I FOUND AN APARTMENT!! After twice being minutes away from signing a lease and having it fall through, Moni and I were growing very skeptical as to whether we were actually going to find a place within our price range. We had long departed from trying to find a flat in a particular area that we wanted, but rather just a place with two beds that was no more than 14,000 crowns max per month including utilities. I gave the much abbreviated reader’s digest version of what happened our first go-around with the realtor and respective landowner, which left a very bad taste in our mouths even though both the parties were American.

The second time through was somewhat heart-breaking. On Tuesday, Moni and I set an appointment to view this apartment our in Prague 6 (Prague is divided into areas with correlating numbers, the more you move out of the center, the bigger the number is). Right before our appointment, we were informed of another flat within our budget in Prague 4, figuring we had plenty of time to view it and scramble over to Prague 6 for the other one. Bad idea….which we should have known given our track record with transportation. We got on and off the first tram from Karlovo Namesti to IP Pavlova just fine, but then confusion set in when the next tram we were supposed to connect to, tram 11, wasn’t listed on the schedule. It was the only tram that went to where we were headed, and even if we had known where we were, we didn’t have time to walk there. Luckily, as we were discerning our exact place on the map, we saw tram 11 wiz by and Mon had the brilliant idea of following it in hopes to see where it stopped, which is exactly what we did. Apparently, the online map had neglected to show that there were multiple tram stops in one area….and you couldn’t always predict where they were going to be. This was going to become the recurring theme in our escapade that day. We successfully boarded tram 11 and were on our way. The apartment we found relatively easy enough, and were ushered in by a rather awkward and young local. It was listed as a 2 +kk, which mean there are two rooms in all, and in one of them there is a kitchenette in the corner. Upon entering the flat, we found the set-up rather unorthodox, where the bedroom was actually IN the kitchen and a coach and entertainment furniture in the other room. Not exactly what we were looking for, we vacated rather quickly, with no further questions posed to the boy.

Time was not on our side yet again, and we sent a quick message to the real estate agent in Prague 6 that we were going to be a little late....To get to Prague 6, we needed to get same tram BACK to where we were to connect to another tram…which we figured would be easy enough. Wrong again. Logically, you would think that the tram stop for the same tram going the opposite direction would be right across the street, but no, clearly in the Czech Republic they don’t adhere to the boring rules of logic but rather venture outside of the box. Not knowing what else to do, we walked down the street in hopes of seeing the tram go by and from there figuring out where it stopped to pick up its passengers. Well, the tram DID go by and it came from around the corner….where we saw another tram stop. HUZZAH! This must be the one we need. Wait…..nope, not the right one. Did anyone else see that coming? No tram 11. But there was tram 18 that would take us to another connection to pick up tram 22, which was ultimately the tram we wanted to be on. Along it came, onboard we climbed, and off again we were. Back at Karlovo Namesti, we alighted and went to check the schedule for which direction we needed to pick up the 22. Hmm….which was rather difficult to do considering 22 did not stop there. AGH! Ok, there is starting to get a little old Prague. Drawing upon previous experience, we noted there was another tram stop down the way and tried to head in that direction. I say try because our first two attempts were rejected as there were guard rails along the sidewalk and it is prohibited to climb over them. To avoid them, we had to go down the metro and out the other side to resurface across the street. Running to stop, we were ecstatic to see tram 22 did in fact run past there……but going the opposite direction of what we needed. Anyone noticing the trend yet? Turning in circles, we caught a glimpse of the tram we needed going in the direction we needed coming around the corner. AHA!! Hurriedly, we scrambled just in time for the next tram and were finally en route to our final destination, though definitely not our final adventure for the day.

Only when I looked at the schedule, did I realize Vypich (where we needed to alight) was 17 stops away. SEVENTEEN??!!! Sweet. That just figures. Ok, well, we were only a couple of minutes late at that point….so what is a couple of more, especially if they knew we were going to be late already? Little did we know that 17 stops translated into roughly 30 minutes…..and we were fortunate enough to be travelling during high traffic hours as well….Well, throughout that time, Simona (the realtor) called me several times, inquiring as to our whereabouts and how late we were to be expected. At that point, we had absolutely no idea, and Moni pretty much summed up our emotional state by making it comparable to the Amazing Race, and how you feel like the million dollars is slipping away because you are stuck on some sort of transportation and have no control over its arrival time. Obviously, in this case, it was the apartment. Finally, much later, we got off the tram and I fielded yet another phone call from the rather anxious real estate agent. A couple of minutes, I told her…we were supposedly only a couple of blocks away according to the map. Ok, then why are we surrounded by a park and a highway with no obvious structures, let alone residential apartment buildings? Darn you life. We just can’t get off that easy, right? Moni and I were about to throw in the oh so proverbial towel, when finally we spotted the street we needed and happened upon the other party. WHEW!

The flat turned out to be perfect: two bedrooms with two twin beds in each, a separate living room and kitchen, everything furnished and done in wood…and the best part?! It was only 14.000 crowns, including utilities and no commission! Mon and I got way excited and although we told them we would think about it and get back to them the next day, we were both thinking it was great place, location, and couldn’t beat the price. We emailed them that evening with our official offer and to confirm a few things before we came by and signed the lease. Then….the other shoe dropped. Simona (the realtor) called the next morning and apparently the listing was actually 16.000 crowns, 2000 more than we expected…not to mention that utilities could be even more expensive than that and we didn’t know for sure if wifi was included in that since it was yet to be set up. Needless to say, our perfect flat was flawed and both our hearts broke hardcore. We just chalked it up to the fact that we had jinxed ourselves by mentioning it to other people and getting so excited about it.

So after all of that melodramatic narration, we come to the turning point in our flat search. Moni had arranged a viewing of sorts at a place about 2 blocks from the hostel we were staying at….we couldn’t remember much about the place because we responded to tons of ads, but we figured at the time we had thought it was a good place. Anyways, we went to see it, and found a big room with two twin beds in it, plus two desks, a wardrobe, 2 nightstand tables of sort, and an armchair in the room we would rent. The rent was 11.000 split two ways, which included all utilities where wifi was already set up for us. There are two other bedrooms in the apartment, one which a Belgium is renting (he is also 22 and speaks 5 different languages) and the other room next to ours is still vacant. We have a common room in the middle with a kitchen, and a toilet and a separate bathroom with shower and washing machine. The place is right in the center of Prague, thus Prague 1, and we already know the location so well. We readily accepted the flat, especially since we didn’t have to pay a deposit or commission fee, plus we didn’t have to sign a one year contract, but instead just until the end of June, which works even better for us. There is even a wine bar right next door, who apparently is very good friends with our very eccentric slash crazy landlady who is a no bullshit kind of lady and bought us a round of wine to celebrate with. I mean, really, who could ask for more?? Mon and I don’t mind sharing a room because it is so big, we have everything we need, we already know some of the neighbors, and one of our roommates is Flemish. There is even a couch for our friends to crash on when they come to visit (for those reading this, I mean YOU). Oh yeah, not to mention our landlady provided us with two sets of linens, towels, pillows, etc, and she knows all about the visa process…which we need documents signed by her to prove residency. Score 10 for the home team!

Ok, well, I guess I have written enough for one blog….I am taking pictures tomorrow when we have cleaned up the apartment a little more (ie, finally unpacked) and you can see what it looks like. Nothing extravagant, but very functional.


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Recent Messages

From mon
love youuuuuu and will miss visiting our asian friends with you on a weekly basis -- bratislava and vienna this weekend, hollaaaaaaaaa :)
Response: agreed....i don't even want to think about it yet. woot woot for traveling!!
From mom
1 word...Calamine lotion...I guess that's 2 words...love you
From Donald E Braun Jr
To get rid of hives you need to use an antihistamine, believe it or not. Loratadine is one of the suggested treatments...anything to help deal with the release of histamines from the red cells. How is the job search going??
From mon
baha love the blog about apartment finding, and love your dad's comment about tram 22 even more! if i never see tram 22 again, i'll be happy :)
Response: yeah...although i have a feeling it is going to haunt us...even today with my brief venture to the bakery, it was shadowing me.
From Donald Braun
Megster,
I think I just saw tram #22, it is heading your way!! Do you need help moving in and organizing your stuff?? Glad to hear you have a home.
Response: haha, you are such a kidder father. nope, i pretty much got my stuff squared away, yes we have a washer, no we don't have a dryer (no one does really in europe) and my stuff is always organized!
From mom
My little birdie has found a nest!!! Yay!
Response: your little birdie? hmmmm...i guess you could say that.
From curt cameron
hello megan,
grandma c,and uncle curt r enjoying your blog and with both like seeing how u r doing so far away.we both look fwd to your blog glad things r going so well for.
From Alex Thome
Hey! I've been reading this and it sounds very interesting...I know you are probably very busy, but when you get the chance, can you tell me the process you went through to be able to teach English abroad? Thank you!
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From mom
hi sweetie. glad you got back safely. wondering how to see the new pics you posted. only see the first set you put on. love you...
From Donald E Braun Jr
South Carolina beat NC St. 7-3!!
From Mom
Loved the pics. Looks alot like Fort Collins...not.