I really cannot believe that I have only been in the Czech Republic for 1 week and so much has happened already. The past few days have been a whirlwind with having now been to 2 different places, meeting a bunch of different people, and knowing that so much change is still about to happen in the coming week.
Fulbright orientation in Brno was jam-packed but so much fun! I met the other 9 Fulbright ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) and we participated in about 3-4 sessions each of the 3 days about teaching English, living in the Czech Republic (CR), and the Czech education system. We definitely learned a lot very fast. It felt strange and slightly overwhelming to be students being taught to teach other students. Also, learning about the CR definitely showed some major differences. For example, discussing religion is a social taboo that is considered to be impolite to bring up or to ask about a person’s religious beliefs. We were also warned that there is a lot of current racism toward the Roma population that is similar to attitudes towards Black people in the 1950s US South, or the current opinions on illegal Mexican immigrants.
Orientation would have definitely been a lot more boring without the other 9 awesome Fulbright ETAs. While participating in English teaching activities, name game examples, and lessons about the modern-day teenager we were all pretty competitive and deliriously giggly. One night some Czech students from Masarykova Univerzita took us for some sightseeing, dinner, and pub drinking in Brno. Some fun things we learned:
- Public urination is fully acceptable.
- Not making eye contact when clinking beer glasses means 7 years of bad sex.
- Never ever combine 2 glasses of beer.
- If a woman drinks dark beer her breasts will grow.
- Students shamelessly cheat in class by any means possible.
- New fathers go out and get drunk with friends when their wives give birth.
- Czech Easter means men and children “beating” women on the legs with weaved whips to make them more fertile in exchange for painted eggs and shots of alcohol.
Now I am currently in Nový Šaldorf living with my mentor, Jana, her husband, two children, and golden retriever, Max. The transition from a city with new American friends to a small Czech town without English speakers around has been a little shocking, but so far my time close to Znojmo has been great. Jana’s family has been so friendly and they even bought me peanut butter and Nutella so I feel more at home. Their house is very nice with a beautiful view of Znojmo from their front door. So far our activities this weekend have been almost like a typical American weekend: watching Avatar on their TV (except that it’s 3D!), eating delicious meals, grocery shopping, walking the dog, swimming in their pool, reading on the couch, running errands etc.
I would say the most noticeable difference so far has been with their meals and eating habits. Jana told me within a few hours of meeting me that she was shocked that I was not a lazy, obese, American. This continued when I asked for yogurt and granola the first day for breakfast instead of the pastries she bought. Instead of the typical big American family dinner, lunch is the largest and most complicated meal, which often lends itself to lazier afternoons of digestion. Also there is much more eating in between meals with coffee, snacks, and small cookies. My stomach is still figuring it out.
Otherwise, my inability to speak Czech at this point is another obvious indicator of being foreign. It has been difficult to communicate with Jana’s family and extended family, so I often simply listen to them as they converse in Czech. I do feel very American when being asked and watching the Czech news about the impending action with regards to Syria. Although I have not been able to gauge (or translate) Czech opinion, it seems to be with most of the world that American action will only lead to more problems, especially for the USA.
Now I head to sleep on another—yet entirely different—first day of school. Happy Labor Day America!