My Happiness Theory

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My blog post for this week is a bit different than normal.  I didn’t go on any trips this week, and my teaching schedule is basically the same.  Here I am just happily living life.  That’s why this week’s post is all about happiness!

I came up with my own happiness theory a couple of weeks ago when I found myself thinking back on my past before coming to Prague.  I would think about college.  I would think about studying abroad in New Zealand.  I would think about working at Clear Channel.  I would think about my old apartment in Rochester.  These thoughts of the past became more and more prevalent in my daily life.  If I planned lessons late in the library one night, I would counter by thinking about the “easy” days at Clear Channel when I left at 5:30 and didn’t look back until the next morning.  When plans fell through with roommates or friends, I would think about the great people that I have known and how much fun we’ve had.  When teaching got tough, I longed for the life of a student.  All of my memories seemed so lovely in comparison to the difficult parts of my life here in Prague.

What I didn’t take the time to think about, was that each of these memories also had a difficult side.  There were days in college that were filled with self doubt, boredom, and uninspired work.  There were times in New Zealand where I felt completely alone in the world and so far from home.  There were times at Clear Channel when I pined over ANY job except the one I had.  But, when I look back on these events, my mind chooses to leave out those parts most of the time.

I look back on most of my life and think, “Wow.  I was SO happy then.”  But during my happiness revelation, I had to ask myself: was it real, pure, so-much-greater-than-now happiness?  Or is that just the way my mind is choosing to remember things?

Of course I have been happy in the past, and of course I have had difficult times in the past.  But the heart of my theory lies in the fact that the past is just that.  Our memories are only distant pictures with fuzzy, warm glows.  Memories are wonderful – the past happened, and you lived to tell the tale.  But they aren’t reality.

Do not be deterred from happiness in the present by an unrealistic picture of happiness in the past.  We do not have that picture now, and possibly never did.  All we really have is each individual present moment striking like ticks on a clock.  Those clock ticks are what we have to make happiness out of, and nothing else.

I recently shared these ideas with one of my roommates and another friend.  Both seemed excited by the prospect that happiness only matters when you have it right now.  Where and when do you think happiness is accessible?  Share in the comments!

Plzeň, Czech Republic

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This weekend was spent in Plzeň enjoying brewery tours, beer, and the festival celebrating Plzeň recently being named the European Capital of Culture for 2015.

On Saturday morning we left early on a train and got to the city around 11:30.  It takes about an hour an a half to get there from Prague.  When we arrived, we realized that a lot of celebrations were going on due to the new cultural title.  Everyone in our travel group was so excited to see what this city of culture had to offer us!

Upon our arrival, we went and found a cheap hostel/hotel that had a nice room for the four of us that would be staying overnight.  It was a really well equipped hotel room with nice beds and a bathroom of our own and it was very reasonably priced.  We checked in and then headed to see what was going on in the nearby city center.

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We started off the day at the brewery.  When we arrived, we saw the famous arches above and walked through them into the area devoted to the brewery.  Special tents were set up due to the celebrations, so after buying our tour tickets, we went inside the huge green tent with giant Pilsner Urquell logos that was set up there.

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Inside there was traditional Czech dancing and music that was a lot of fun to watch.  It seemed like all of the performers were really enjoying themselves, and their enthusiasm was catching.

IMG_2800We all grabbed a beer from the taps they had set up in the tent and then made our way over to the food area.  There they had a catering style lineup of dishes where you could ask for what you want and they would dish it up for you.  I got a meal that would soon be remembered as one of my favorites that I have eaten here in the Czech Republic thus far.

IMG_2795It was pork with pickled cabbage and potato dumplings with caramelized onions.  All of the flavors blending together were amazing, and the dumplings were some of the best that I’ve had here.

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There were various bands playing traditional music.  This one was particularly good; I stood up near the front to get a good view and enjoy the music.

Soon, it was time for our brewery tour to start.  We left the tent and headed next door to the brewery where we began our tour.  The guide brought us through rooms displaying artifacts of history of the brewery, as well as rooms that held the vats and other machinery things needed to brew beer.  We watched a couple of different videos on the brewing process as well.

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This was the actual tank room where the beer is heated.  It was pretty warm in here because the process was happening as we were taking our tour.

IMG_2821The next and more interesting part of the tour was walking through the damp and chilly beer cellars where we could see beer fermenting in tanks, and some huge wooden kegs that were ready to be tapped.

IMG_2834In the final leg of our tour, we got to taste some unfiltered beer right out of the keg in the basement.  It was so fresh and delicious — I don’t know if I will ever have another beer like it again.

When we stepped outside after our tour, there was a large crowd congregating outside the brewery.  There were men on stilts standing in the crowd as well as a giant Angel statue manned by a few people.  One leg of the parade was starting right in front of our eyes.  We decided to join up and walk with the parade through the city and into the city center.

IMG_2846There were four different parade routes that met up in the middle of the city.  We walked with a giant mass of people through streets that were shut down and blocked off to traffic.  People looked down from their windows and watched from bridges.  The parade consisted of a giant mass of people, various bands (one man walked with his band playing an upright bass violin), flame throwers, and people on stilts.  At one point, we walked right next to some huge Clydesdale horses towing a few fake kegs on a flat bed.

IMG_2850We made it to the city center with our parade group and waited for about an hour in the cold for the festivities to start.  In the mean time, there was music playing over speakers and an interesting light show playing on the buildings in the square.

IMG_2853The show finally started.  It included a giant metal puppet partaking in some theatrics I can only describe as “art,”  as well as a man walking across a tightrope to the top of the cathedral.  He was walking that route in order to signify the returning of the bells to the bell tower that were stolen in World War II.  He made it across the tiny wire that hung directly above our heads and by the time he finally made it, we were all freezing.  So we went to a nearby restaurant and had some dinner.  I had chicken stuffed with blue cheese, spicy peppers, and bacon.

After that, our some of our friends had to leave to catch their train back home, while others headed back to the hostel.  Jordan and I decided to check out the night life around Plzeň which we had heard many good things about.

We started at the Funky Money which was a cocktail bar where we ordered some interesting drinks.  Then we went to a music bar where they were playing a lot of American dance music.  We ended our night at Music Bar Andel, an alternative music bar where a DJ was spinning vinyl record of 90s music (both American and European).  We really enjoyed dancing the night away with tons of locals in this unique atmosphere.  Oh, and, they had Discovery Channel playing on the screen behind the stage… 😉

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After our long night out, we went to get Kebabs on the way back to the hotel.  They were huge!  We headed back and hit the hay in our comfortable hotel bed.

The next morning, our compadres left early, as Jordan and I got some extra sleep after our late night.  We woke up and got ready for another day of exploring the city.

IMG_2863Today we enjoyed a relaxed day of sight seeing throughout the city and visiting all the sights that we hadn’t yet seen.  We discovered a nice small park with ice statues.  I had never seen an ice statue like this up close, and it was an awesome discovery.  There were actually 4 separate statues with one really big one (shown below).

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They were starting to melt a little, but, still very cool.  We also checked out the Jewish Synagog which is the third largest in the world.  This month, it is closed for tours, but we got to see the outside and later viewed a picture of the inside, so we thought it was close enough!

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IMG_2875The picture above is the Town Hall.  The outside of the building has amazing carving drawings in it.

IMG_2895Our wanderings led us to stumble upon some other really interesting things like the hand made boat art projects shown above, as well as a photo exhibit of the city’s culture.

Finally, we had lunch at the Beer Museum and decided it was time to hit the road back home: hopped on a train and back we went to the city of stories – Prague.

I’m (officially) A Teacher!

Well, I can officially say that I am an English Teacher in Prague.  I finished my first full week of teaching and I’m gearing up for my next week.  I will not lie to you, readers.  My first week of teaching was SO HARD!!  I can’t remember the last time I was so busy, tired, or stressed out.  But when a class goes well, it is so rewarding.  When you can tell that your students got something out of your lesson, it is all worth it.

This is my teaching schedule so far:

Monday – 10:15-1pm Intensive Course with Russian Teenage Girls
3-4pm GE Aviation Class with Petr, an engineering maintenance manager

Tuesday – 8-9am Porsche Dealership class with IT specialist and IT manager
10:15-1pm Intensive Course with Russian Teenage Girls
2-5pm Class with Video Game Designers (2 different leveled classes)

Wednesday – 7:30-8:30 Partia Finance class with Jan, Economist
10:15-1pm Intensive Course with Russian Teenage Girls
3-4pm GE Aviation Class

Thursday – 8-9am Porsche Dealership Class
10:15-1pm Intensive Course with Russian Teenage Girls
3-4 WAG Payment class with Lukas

Friday – 10:15-1pm Intensive Course with Russian Teenage Girls

I have enjoyed meeting all of my students and finding all of their different offices across Prague.  The most challenging/exciting class is with my 9 Russian Teenagers.  We meet every day for 2 weeks.  The class challenges me because I clearly need to keep it interesting and exciting, or else my students will be on their phones all class!

So far, each class takes me about 30 minutes to plan for.  I’m hoping this time frame will go down as I get more experience planning lessons.  Until then, I am trying to smartly manage my time and make the lessons enjoyable.  I try to have one fun activity in each lesson to keep my students interested and having fun.

I’m learning a ton about teaching each day.  I wonder what I will learn this week! 🙂

A Day in Kutná Hora

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After my first full week of teaching, Jordan and I decided a nice day trip from Prague was definitely needed.  We researched some different options, but decided to take the trip to Kutná Hora and the Bone Chapel this weekend.

While on the 45 minute train ride, we met an Australian girl who was also going to the Bone Chapel so we decided to go together.  Our first stop once we got to Kutná Hora was the Bone Chapel.

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It is a “burial” sight with 40,000 people’s bones in it.  We were significantly freaked out, but also intrigued.  Outside of the chapel are tombs of various people.  We knew inside would only get creepier.  As we stepped inside, structures and designs made out of bones greeted us.  The chapel is supposed to honor the dead.  There is a crucifix at the head of the chapel, a bone pyramid with a wooden crown on top, and the family who paid to preserve the chapel has their coat of arms made out of bones on the left side of the chapel.  We wandered around staring at the bone formations – bone chandelier, pyramids, pillars.  But it wasn’t the type of thing you could stare at for very long without feeling morbid.  After a while, we left and grabbed lunch at a nearby cafe with our Aussie friend.

She had to head back to Prague to catch a flight, so Jordan and I walked the 4Km into the city of Kutná Hora.  Most things were shut down since it was a Sunday afternoon, but we really enjoyed walking through the town and feeling that “outside of Prague” feeling.  We saw some beautiful, unforgettable sights.

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This place gave a whole new meaning to “windy, cobblestone streets.”

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We were astonished when, walking through the small streets we looked up and saw the Church of St Barbara towering over us.

IMG_2778This is known as an imitation of the famous Charles Bridge in Prague.

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This was one path we explored down, running right next to the river.

IMG_2759It was a beautiful day in this beautiful town.  We enjoyed pondering the daily lives of the people who live in such an old eastern area.  It was lovely and old.  We both mused that it seemed like something out of a fairy tale.