28 April 2011

International Children's Festival of Folk Dances

After 8 months in Europe I finally saw some traditional folk dancing. It's something that I had wanted to experience especially in Central and Eastern Europe where rich cultural traditions have been rediscovered after the fall of communism. While out and about in Istanbul, a friend and I unexpectedly hit folk dancing gold. A free outdoor performance for the International Children's Festival of Folk Dances. BINGO!
Hungarian boys
Hungarian girls
We saw the most adorable kids from Turkey, Slovakia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Bosnia Herzegovina dressed in beautiful traditional clothing. They were kicking, jumping, twirling, and bouncing in ways I've never seen before. At one point a young Turkish boy ran up a human ramp made by the other boys and leaped down. Just like that, no big deal! So young and so talented! 
Bulgarian girls
Watching these kids made me want to go back to my childhood and be more culturally involved. I did ballet, gymnastics, piano lessons, and lots of other enriching activities. All of which were amazing but aren't connected with one culture. What tradition am I related to anyways? Italian-American? American? Texan? Perhaps my lack of traditional roots is why I am so interested in the cultures and traditions of others. 

School's almost out (again)!

This time last year I was hyped up about graduating and moving to the Czech Republic to teach English. Now it's almost over- the teaching part at least. I have 2 weeks left of class before the examination period begins. Somehow 25 weeks of class flew by and I'll be standing in front of my students for the last time very soon. It's an unusual relationship I have with my students, probably because I'm so young. I feel half like their friend and half like their mother- a mother who wants her children to learn something because it will help them in life. English really will help them. Almost all high position jobs in the Czech Republic require knowledge of a foreign language. In Prague, where millions of tourists pass through each year, English is easily the most useful. Regardless of whether they retained any information, we had lots of fun times in class (or at least I enjoyed laughing at my jokes).
It will be strange to move on but I am looking forward to becoming a student again in the not-so-distant future. Having been a teacher I know I will be a better student.

Side note: I've been teaching and traveling non-stop. It may seem that I forgot about blogging when actually I've been blogging more than ever- just not on this one. My class blog this semester was a huge success in promoting communication and online learning tools. I'm going to try to keep it running even after I return home. But grading this stack of essays on my desk is more urgent. C'est la vie!

24 April 2011

Photo of the week- The sun sets behind Istanbul

On a ferry across the Bosphorus Sea between Europe and Asia is the place to be at sunset. Shadowed minarets from countless mosques dramatically pierce the sky and compose an impressive scene- the perfect precursor to an unforgettable night.

15 April 2011

Sparta Praha + Slavia Praha= FIRE!

I've been to one European football match before (flashback to my Olympique Lyonnais experience) but Czech football is in a league of its own. A friend scored us some tickets to one of the largest rival games in the Czech Republic- Sparta Praha vs Slavia Praha (3rd row for only 220 CZK- that's about $11)! We were in for quite an experience- surely one I will never forget.
Sparta Praha fans
Slavia Praha fans
This match wasn't actually about football, it was about fans. The fans were on fire... literally! First we saw flares then fire. My American and Northern Irish friends who were with me felt uncomfortable and prepared to evacuate. The fires seemed to be out of control! Hardly. According to our Czech friends it is completely normal. It is what the "Ultra" fans normally do to rile up the other team's "Ultra" fans. These hooligans are separated from other spectators by a high security metal railing fence with an anti-climb curved top. Conclusion: these guys challenge each other to the biggest fire in the stadium while at the same time being unable to escape quickly if something goes wrong. What does security do? They make an announcement "Please refrain from using pyrotechnics inside the stadium." So we drank our beers and ate our sausages while watching a football match illuminated by fire and engulfed in a stadium of smoke. Sparta Praha won 2-0. What a night!