Monthly Archives: June 2010

TEFL teacher or working girl? 10 reasons why Girl in Czechland sometimes feels like a whore

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Girl in Czechland decides to include a little roleplay to spice up her otherwise dull one-to-one class

“Many of my friends will tell you how temping for a year or ending up in sales is similar to prostitution.  It is not.” 

So says Belle de Jour on the opening page of her blog-based book cataloging her adventures as a London call girl. I guess she should know.  

Most of us have felt exploited enough by our employers at some point that we believe, however misguidedly, that we are somehow just one small step away from prostituting ourselves.  That’s why the phrase “corporate whore” exists.  Anyway.  For my own and hopefully also your amusement, I’m going to defy Belle and suggest some reasons why we TEFLers are in fact linguistic whores – of a sort.

TEN THINGS TEACHING TEFL HAS IN COMMON WITH THE WORLD’S OLDEST PROFESSION

1. We’re both paid by the hour. Rates for our services vary wildly.

2. Clients think they’re paying for one service (English lessons, a good servicing) but really they want another – to be the centre of attention, to be listened to attentively and above all, to be made to feel special.   This explains why some of my one-to-one classes feel like being made to go on a bad date every week.

3. Both can involve roleplay although usually I’m not required to wear rubber or use nipple clamps. 

4. Both involve a good deal of travelling around a city visiting various addresses at unusual times of the day: 7.30am lesson anyone? 

5. You (probably) work for an agency who take a substantial cut out of your salary – call it a language school if you will but a glorified agency is all it is – and if you do not do their bidding then you’re highly dispensable as there are a queue of others ready to take your place.  They’ll probably do it for less you too, dirty scrubbers.

6. Keeping up your end of the conversation rather than knowing the difference between an irregular past participle and a gerund or being able to pop ping pong balls from any orifice is probably the most important skill required in the job (see no 2).

7. You are a perk, a benefit, an add-on extra, a distraction from someone’s 9 – 5 routine, a luxury product, the entertainment.  Again, see no 2 but the crucial difference here is that unlike Belle’s clients, yours are usually not paying for your services themselves which may affect their motivation levels – and therefore yours.

8. There is obviously a need to maintain clear boundaries.  Blur these at your peril.  Agreeing to have your group lessons in the pub opposite the office every week may initially seem like a good idea but it is the slippery road to ruin. Who knows what you’ll let slip after a couple of slivovice and anyway, they’ll all just end up speaking Czech to each other while you’re forced to keep up your end with Ms Conscientious-but-oh-so-Dull in a corner. You need to maintain a certain mystique in both trades: while you may be friendly, you must remember you are not the client’s friend, nor they yours.

9. Feign interest and try not to drift off mid-activity.  You don’t want the client to get wind of the fact you’re just going through the motions.

10. Gap-fill exercises.  Just use your imagination.

I know that work for TEFL teachers is rather thin on the ground over the summer months, what with the Czechs disappearing off to their chatas (country cottages) and leaving their copies of Business Builder and Cutting Edge behind, so don’t worry.  Despite the title of this post, I haven’t decided to start supplementing my income by immoral means.  What would Czechman’s grandmas have to say about that?

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Quiz time: Check out just how Czech you’ve become…

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I’ve just got back from a long weekend in Berlin. While packing my things at the hotel, I stood by the sink trying to decide whether to take those complimentary hand soaps and little sachets of shampoo. I know I probably won’t use them but somehow I can’t help myself. They’re free – sort of – we’ve paid for them – it would be a waste. I even find a little plastic bag to pack away the half-finished soap, even though it’s about the size of my thumb.

That’s it. Little Ms Spoilt and Western has become a thrifty Czech.

Anyway, this incident inspired me to devise a test to assess my Czechness levels. See how high your score is…

HOW CZECH ARE YOU? THE GIRL IN CZECHLAND UNOFFICIAL CZECH CITIZENSHIP TEST

1. Let’s kick off (pardon the pun) with something topical. The World Cup is upon us once again. Which team have you chosen to pledge your allegiance to?

a) England! This means getting wildly drunk while watching the games either in an expat bar or on your sofa, gesticulating angrily at the TV as our boys perform as abysmally as ever then going out to trash a nearby telephone box before being arrested and then deported. Fun times.

b) The Czech Republic! Those Bohemian lions are footballing gods. Hang on a minute, what’s that I hear you say? We failed to qualify… Damn. I suppose you’ll just have to get behind Slovakia instead.

c) You find football a bit dull: hockey’s so much faster isn’t it?

Another shy, retiring English football fan encouraging her boys with her 'holky'...

2. Onto matters financial. How often do you withdraw money from ATMs?

a) Nearly every day: basically whenever you run out of money, which is all the time as you don’t really have a budget of any sort.

b) Once a month only or twice at the absolute most and only from your own bank’s ATM. These withdrawals are free and why should you give the scumbag bankers any excuse to take an extra crown off you?

c) Once or twice a month but you might possibly take money from a different ATM from your own bank if you really need some cash in an emergency and can’t find another one.

3. Your Czechman has proposed to you and you have accepted. (Aww!) You are now planning your very own Big Fat Czech Wedding. As every bride knows, the most important thing is to choose the right dress. Do you:

a) Hire a gown (even though the cost is half what it would be to actually buy the thing)?

b) Buy a cute little vintage number: you think it’s important to have something really quirky and unique. Now you come to think of it, perhaps it would be nice to have some kind of a theme…

c) Buy a huge designer white meringue and pay for it on your credit card: after all, you only get married once, right? (hopefully at least…)

In order to cut back on costs, this young Czech couple pitch in with the clean-up operation...

4.  Breakfast: the most important meal of the day.  Co si dáte?

a) Porridge.  Thank god for Marks and Spencers food section which also sell the proper super strong tea you need to get you going first thing in the morning – which you have with milk of course.  And perhaps a slice of toast if you’re still peckish.

b)  Toast?  Pah!  Everyone knows that gives you cancer.  You’ll be having a rohlik, the ubiquitous cylinder shaped bread roll.  And it’s thrifty too – just a crown from Tesco.  You might take a few to work with you just to have as a snack.  And if you can’t be bothered to cook in the evening, you’ll crack open a yogurt from the fridge and drip another rohlik straight in it.   There’s protein and carbohydrate and you don’t need to wash up a spoon…

c) Kolacs of course!  There can be nothing very wrong with a country which encourages you to eat cake for breakfast.

Who said Czech cuisine was all meat and dumplings?

 

5. And now the controversial matter of personal hygiene. When do you take a shower?

a) In the morning. You need that blast of hot water first thing followed by a strong cup of tea to get yourself going.

b) In the evening. How anyone can bear to go to bed with dirty feet and sweaty armpits is frankly beyond you.

c) You take two showers a day now as you can’t quite decide which nationality you are anymore.

THE SCORES

1. a) 0 b) 2 c) 2
2. a) 0 b) 2 c) 1
3. a) 2 b) 1 c) 0
4. a) 0 b) 2 c) 2
5. a) 0 b) 2 c) 1

7 or more: It’s official! You’re uber-thrifty, would rather watch the hockey than the footie and have developed a penchant for rohliks and evening showers. You’re Czech!

4 – 6 points: Being here has certainly rubbed off on you: you’re quite partial to the odd kolac for breakfast and you now leap up out of your seat on the tram to let pensioners take the weight off their feet without a second thought. You still tip a bit too generously though and have been known to splurge on the odd latte at your favourite cafe…

5 or less: Face it, despite your stay here, you’ve remain English through and through. Which is no bad thing – so long as you refrain from committing any drunken acts of hooliganism.

And just in case you think I’ve given up all my spoilt and western ways, here’s me in Mama Coffee indulging in some secret hot beverage consumption while reading a French novel like the pseudo-intellectual ex-pat poser I really am…

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Guerilla Knitting Czech Style: Girl in Czechland goes stitching and bitching

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These women are taking part in an act of guerilla knitting outside the National Theatre in Prague.  I spotted them as I was on my way home on the 22 tram this afternoon. Overwhelmed with curiosity, I decided to jump off and find out exactly what was going on.

Those of you living in the States or the UK – especially uber-hip New York or arty East London – will not failed to have noticed that knitting is the new black. It’s not unusual to see young women pull out their circular needles on the Tube and start clacking away.  When I attempted this in the company of Czechman, his reaction was one not merely of embarrassment but of horror.  As far as he was concerned, knitting was for old folks only – and they did it in the privacy of their own homes.

Here in Czechland though I believed these attitudes towards knitting remained: that it was the preserve of grannies, desperately uncool and to be undertaken only indoors.  I was therefore delighted to make the acquaintance of the Guerilla Knitters, who don’t make sweaters, but art.  The group had spent the day knitting and crocheting a cover for the globe which sits in the centre of the diamond above the entrance to Nova Scena.  Here’s a picture of some ladies adding the finishing touches:

If you look really closely, there’s a very small knitted flourescent pink square there which is my own handiwork.  Somewhere.  Watch out for it the next time you pass on the tram.

Knitting brings people together.  This little artistic happening may seem silly and pointless to some but it put smiles on the faces of hundreds of passing tourists.  A few passers-by (like myself) even stopped to join in.   I had an excuse to show off my crafty skills and practice my rubbish Czech on a semi-captive audience.   I now know the words for ‘knit’, ‘purl’ and ‘stocking stitch’ which will serve me well in day-to-day life I’m sure.

Should the group grow in size, who knows which Prague monument will end up covered in knitted graffiti next?  Petrin Tower?  Charles Bridge?  Even Prague Castle itself?  Should the Guerilla Girls knit over all the doors, at least it would keep the odious Vaclav Klaus hidden from sight for a while…

P.S  Just in case you don’t believe me that urban knitting is taking over the Western world, check out these beautiful tree cosies.

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