28 September 2011

The view from Petrin Hill

Today is Czech Statehood Day, which commemorates the patron saint of the Czech people, Saint Wenceslaus, aka Good King Wenceslaus. The Good King was Duke of Bohemia until his younger brother had him murdered on his way to a religious feast in 935, which also happens to be the last year the Jets won the Super Bowl.

A handful of teachers at Akcent-IH chose to gather for a picnic at Petrin Hill. This wasn't a full-on sightseeing day, just a chance to find a spot where we could overlook the "City of a Thousand Spires" (it's true; I counted) and relax.

27 September 2011

More of this 'n' that from the first week

The paperwork is almost completed for me to officially work and live in Prague. Also, I have settled on two professional sports teams to support. Go on, guess which of these facts matters more.

Here's a summary of the past few day as I prepare for my two-day induction that begins Thursday ...

26 September 2011

Just photos, part jedna

Prague Castle, with St. Vitus Cathedral within its walls, overlook the Vltava.

The Charles Bridge and other buildings on the Old Town side.

One of 30 statues on the Charles Bridge.

The scene on the Vltava on a sunny Sunday.
For more photos taken from the weekend, including a metronome where the world's largest statue of Stalin used to be, click on the Flickr photo album here.

25 September 2011

It's a dog's life

Five days in, I decided to unleash Baldy on Prague.

Here, he is sitting in an area of Mala Strana (or "Little Quarter"), a beautiful, quaint, tourist-filled area of Prague nestled against the Vltava River and near the Charles Bridge. As I've alluded to before, Prague is extremely dog-friendly. Dogs can ride on the buses (toward the back), on trams and on the subway. They can even enter pubs and restaurants. The general rule seems to be: Unless there is a specific sign that says dogs are forbidden, then dogs are welcome.

23 September 2011

Oh, no! The kitchen's exploded!

If you participated in the "How Long Will It Take For Fitz To Obliterate Something In The Apartment?" pool, whoever selected "the second morning in the place" is the winner, with bonus points to anyone who specified an explosion in the kitchen.

I didn't take a photo of the damage, so I'll just take the Action News Team path and show you the much cleaner aftermath.

"I'm live at the very spot where, 12 hours ago,
Mark Fitzhenry exhibited the IQ of a doorknob."

22 September 2011

Video: My apartment in Prague

For a combination oven/dishwasher and other stuff, allow Baldy to lead you on a tour ...

This 'n' that from my first two days

The journey began Tuesday, with Scott Folsom behind the wheel of his pickup truck and a damp Baldy sitting on my lap in the passenger's seat. A five-hour wait followed. After that was a flight in which I napped for 30 minutes tops, a four-hour layover in which I dozed for 40 minutes tops, an hour flight to Prague, bedtime at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, 90 minutes of lying awake starting around 1 a.m., a 7:30 alarm when I wanted it half an hour later, and lots of shopping and general getting-to-know-the-neighborhood stuff.

Here are some snippets from the past two days, starting with what you really want to know:

Poll results: My fate after three months in Prague

Looks like our readers have a measure of respect for my knowledge of '80s music, but not necessarily for the way I move to it:

Response No.
Become "Assistant Director of Curriculum/'80s Music" for my school 5
Banned from nightclub for horrific dancing 5
Receive lifetime free pass in nightclub for fantastic dancing 3
Married after using "I was Deer goalkeeper of the year" as a pickup line 2
Bludgeoned to death by English after 1,473rd Robert Green joke 2
Deported for letting Baldy run rampant in St. Vitus 1

As for Robert Green, if I have the opportunity to make a joke about him, I can't let it slip through my fingers.

20 September 2011

See you on the other side

This has been a summer unlike any other for me, most notably because it's been the first one since my middle school days where I didn't have a job. I was able to survive, thanks to the South Korea pension payments, a bit of savings, and some very low-key nights in front of a large-screen TV and the Boston Red Sox, a PlayStation3 and my DVD collection.

Since I finished teaching in South Korea, I have:
  • Driven from Southern California to New Hampshire by way of the Grand Canyon
  • Taken a teacher certification course in Prague
  • Visited four European cities in seven days
  • Returned home with no job
  • Found a job in Prague
  • Driven to Boston, D.C. and New York (twice) to secure paperwork for said job
And today, I finished packing my suitcase and backpack. At this time tomorrow (at least as I started to type this) I'll be in Logan Airport, waiting for the boarding call, as Baldy is in the good hands of the Lufthansa staff. I've spent much of my summer looking ahead, but today, I'm going to take a brief look back to salute all the people who enabled me to survive this summer in the States:

Ladies and gentlemen, my mattress the past two weeks.

17 September 2011

You had a question, I have an answer

I'd like to thank my aunt Ann for providing the only question for my first (and hopefully not last) mailbag. For submitting the only question, she receives no prize whatsoever, other than the ability to tell her friends that she submitted the only question for this mailbag.

Do you already have a place to live? -- Ann, Connecticut

Yes, I do. When I arrive at the airport on Wednesday, a taxi driver hired by my school will meet me and Baldy at the airport and drive us to our new home. I'll have to pay for the Internet, and for cable TV if I choose to get it (which I imagine I will), but all other expenses are paid for. I'll post a video of my apartment once I get settled in, but chances are it'll be cozy and include a door to the patio that can also be pulled straight down to allow fresh air to enter the apartment from over the top of the door.

An apartment complex, which may or may not have a completed paint job
upon my return, located in Praha 5.

Any other questions? Write a comment in the proper section below or bat out a note on Facebook.

Have I mentioned the poll in the upper right of the webpage? Yes I have. Nobody ever accused me of not belaboring a point, so there you go. Please vote.

16 September 2011

On the plane? No thanks -- Baldy will be in the plane.

First off, a tip of a pilot's cap to George Carlin for the title of this blog entry.

Today marked the final step in getting Baldy everything he needs to join in me in Prague. People often ask me if bringing him overseas is difficult. I'd call the process time consuming, and detail-driven, but not necessarily difficult. The most important things to remember are to do the research and plan ahead. Airlines have rules and guidelines. The U.S. has rules for exporting pets. The EU has rules for importing pets.

All told, I'll bring four items of paperwork with me when it's time to bring Baldy to Logan Airport on Tuesday. Here's a brief chronological look at the tasks I had to complete:

Yes, I'd like an aisle seat, please.

14 September 2011

Not Prague, Part 8: Mount Monadnock

New Hampshire is the proud home of one of the United States' most nondescript presidents, the coolest license plate slogan, and, if one is to believe the numbers, the most-climbed mountain in North America. I climbed Mount Monadnock on Sunday, along with half of Cheshire County, the varsity softball team from Franklin Pierce College, and eight other family members.

Monadnock is not the most majestic mountain you'll ever climb, but it draws hikers because of its grand views over New Hampshire and its relative ease to conquer. My 8- and 13-year-old nieces made the trek on Sunday, and my childhood friend's 76-year-old father completed the climb several months ago. Larry Davis climbed the mountain 2,850 consecutive days until his doctor warned him that doing it again while suffering from pneumonia might result in death. Garry Harrington enjoyed the climb so much he did it 16 times in one day. For us common folk, it's a satisfying day for exercise, scenery and bonding.

Not quite at the summit.
At the summit -- 3,165 feet above sea level.

09 September 2011

Somber times in the square

Prague's Old Town Square, often the home of admiring tourists, rousing protests or rollicking bachelor parties, took on a decidedly more somber tone the past couple of days.

Photo from the Czech news agency. Story here
Photo from the Czech News Agency. Story here
Wednesday, a plane crash in Russia killed all but one every member of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team that was flying to its season-opening game of the Kontinental Hockey League season. Three of the players were Czech: Jan Marek, Karel Rachůnek and Josef Vašíček. Czech officials announced there would be a memorial event at Old Town Square on Thursday, but fans in this hockey-mad country didn't wait that long.

Photo from the Czech News Agency.

08 September 2011

Yes, you may see my papers

Got a present in the mail today: My passport, complete with a 90-day short-term visa stamped onto one of the pages, sent from the Czech consular office in New York.

As frustrating as this process has been, this step has been very satisfying. After it took five weeks to obtain a work permit, and after a delivery company kept my paperwork from Prague on hold from me in Boston for a week, and after I drove to New York one time only to change visa strategies and return four days later, this step took exactly as long as the consular officer told me it would. She said I'd be approved within seven days, and they'd send the visa to me via overnight mail. Sure enough, I got the visa eight days after I applied for it.

This concludes the necessary paperwork to get me to Prague, at least to start the job. Shortly after I arrive, I'll take a train to Berlin and apply for the long-stay visa. Once I apply, I should receive the visa within 60 days, and then the process, which started in late June, will be complete.

Reminders and/or self-serving requests: 
  • If you haven't voted in the new poll, it's located in the upper right of the webpage. It's early, but some people out there are guessing that my school will value my '80s music knowledge more than most institutions.
  • Also, as I wrote in my previous post, I'm asking all y'all what questions you'd like to have me answer, which may or may not include, "Do you really have to write all ya'll?" Please post them in the Comments section below or on Facebook. "Why are you such a git?" is not acceptable, mainly because it's rhetorical.

07 September 2011

Your turn: Questions, please

No pressure or anything, but the one of my future blog posts will depend on you.

I've enjoyed sharing the buildup to my next job, which will begin later this month in Prague, but I'm not sure if what I write always interests you, or if I'm overlooking an aspect of this job that you're truly curious about. So consider this an invitation -- even if it really is a plea -- to ask any questions, either in the Comments section below or on Facebook, about the upcoming job. I'll post your questions with my answers sometime next week -- like a Bill Simmons mailbag, but with fewer "Shawshank" references.

I have a question: How can you be so obtuse?
In other housecleaning news ...
  • There is a new poll question on the upper right of this webpage.
  • If you want to get notified every time I post, you can use the feature on the right. Just enter your email address and Google will send you a message when I have posted.
  • If I die in a plane crash on the way over there, who wants my PlayStation?

01 September 2011

It's a date

I finally have a date, and not the kind I'd eventually ruin by spending 35 minutes dissecting Dave Roberts' stolen base against the Yankees in 2004. The date is September 20, and that's when I finally leave the U.S. for Prague, where I'll land the next day to begin the latest chapter/adventure/prelude to an international incident.

When I last left you, I was getting ready to head to New York to apply for a long-stay visa on Friday. But I was unable to secure the starting date until I returned to New York to apply for a short-term visa on Tuesday. As always, I will explain.

New York, New York: So nice, I drove there twice.