Sunday, January 14, 2007

In the Heart of Europe

It has been a few months. I have moved and started a new job. As promised to those readers in my last post in November I now turn my electronic pen to webpage and write once more.

I have decided to keep the blog name unchanged. Though my intention now is to write on my experiences in a foreign country and not so much my personal view of specific news stories around the world, I believe that here in Europe a 'worldspin' does occur. Different media, culture, and personal opinions provide a nice seasoning to the dish I hope to give to you, my readers, in the coming months.

A brief summary of my crazy life since I last wrote:

I accepted a teaching position at a university in Trencin, Slovakia last March. It seemed to be an ideal situation to find employment in the foreign city that was the birthplace of my wife and where much of her family still reside. And so it was that in December I moved. For those of you unfamiliar with Slovakia or the Slovak Republic as it is also known as; it was one part of the former Czechoslovakia. The nation peacefully split in 1993 and this small nation literally in the middle (heart) of Europe I now call home.

On December 20th I flew to Munich for my connecting flight to Bratislava, Slovakia. There in the airport with my wife we heard much to our chagrin ten minutes before we were to board our flight an announcement that the flight had been cancelled! (no explanation offered) This set off a mad dash to the Lufthansa service center where after waiting in line for 40 minutes were told that the next flight to Bratislava was at 9:30pm. However, a flight to Vienna was leaving at 6:40pm. We arranged to take this flight, booked in part, I believe since my wife's ticket from Istanbul, where she had been on business, had been 'business' designated and she spoke German throughout the entire conversation with the service clerk (to confirm my suspicion, a woman in front of us speaking English did not get this option, being told instead that the flight was full). Once booked we both prayed all our luggage would take the Vienna plane too. Originally, the University had arranged to have a person pick us up at the Bratislava airport. With our flights cancelled I had to call the gentleman responsible for this nice arrangement and tell him the situation. It was a bit awkward since by the time our new flight was booked and I called Michael, we were supposed to be at the Bratislava airport! All worked out. A driver was sent to Vienna and we got to Trencin in the evening, shortly before ten.

My university apartment is really nice. Much more than I expected. It is furnished, which I was told, but one does not really know what that means, you know? Well, it has everything: washing machine, TV, Internet, living room separate from bedroom. It is great. A five minute walk to the school, a ten minute walk to my wife's grandmother. I met with the Associate Dean on December 27 and discussed my schedule for the next term.

My second week has just concluded. It began on January 2nd and I must admit I love what I am doing. All the sections are roughly 12-25 students, which I find a good size to have group discussions and activities with. My fellow teachers are very genuine and helpful. Two of them are American as well. I do feel, however, that I am walking the delicate tight rope of not looking or sounding unprofessional or just plain stupid to my fellow colleagues (which in a way hinders the questions I am able to ask them) while speaking with authority in my classes and using techniques that I either 'feel' are correct or from friends and family (who are teachers) told me are fine. I have quickly realized two things. The first is that while the extensive knowledge is there in my brain on the stuff I am teaching, the specific pedagogical information is not. The second is the sheer weight of responsibility over these young minds many of whom are only four or five years younger than I am. A point I hope the vast majority of them do not realize.

Until next time...

No comments: