Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Czech Language Camp

Language camp was a blast. It was wonderful to have the chance to meet nearly all of the other Rotary exchange students in Czech Republic. The work load was tough -- we had "class" from 8:30 in the morning til 5:30 in the evening. We worked from breakfast to dinner, with a break for lunch (of course) and 15-min breaks every two hours. I had a headache nearly every day of the week, which was unfortunate. I think it was a side effect of all of the learning I was trying to cram into one short week.

All three of the teachers were very good. We had to jump from subject to subject during class due to the time limit, which was incredibly frustrating for me. I plan to spend this week at school organizing my notes from language camp so that I can actually use the information. I still don't really understand the conjugating much at all. Czech has seven cases. Seven! Not to mention the fact that subjects can be masculine, feminine or neutral. Although I have a natural knack for picking up languages, Czech is proving to be more difficult than I had anticipated. It probably would have been better for me if I could learn Czech from an English-speaking teacher. It's pretty difficult to learn Czech in Czech. Saying the word over and over again does nothing unless I have something to relate the word to.

Following dinner every night, there was an organized evening program. Monday night, we all went out bowling. I'm not sure how I did it, but I was the girl with the highest score, so I won a prize (hooray for chocolate). The second night, we went sight-seeing around Třebíč. Wednesday, we went to a local school gym to play soccer, volleyball and/or basketball. I played volleyball with one of the chaperons who was really good. I didn't realize how much I missed that sport, but I played until my arms were bruised -- literally. Thursday night, a local band was performing at the hostel where we were staying, so we had the opportunity to relax and enjoy some music. On our last night, we walked to another local school and played bocce ball until 12 am! Anna (who is also from my district) and I were on a team and we had so much fun -- probably more fun than normal people would have playing bocce ball. :) Each evening program turned out to be fabulous and very tiring. My roommates and I had a theory that the program facilitators were purposefully picking activities that would tire us out so that we'd just go to sleep when we returned to the hostel. For the most part, it worked. The evening program also provided some time to get to know the other exchange students.

I was able to make quite a few friends in the past week. The best part of these new friendships is that these people are going through the same experience that I am, so they really understand what it's like. Being on an exchange isn't taking a trip -- it's nothing like a vacation. You have to create another life here for yourself, which is something that a vacation or short trip doesn't require. It's just nice to know that other people are experiencing the same struggle, though each person's story is distinctly unique. One common trouble among most of us was the lack of physical affection that is shown here. At home, I am used to hugs and other displays of affection, but the Czech greeting is usually only a handshake, unless it is between family members. This change has been particularly difficult for all of us, so there was a lot of hugging going on in Třebíč.

The language camp was a wonderful experience. I feel like I learned quite a bit, but I know that there is still so much to take in. One step at a time, I suppose. I am very thankful for the opportunity to make new friends and share my story with them, as well as hear their stories. I know that I made some very valuable friends.

I started struggling with my first little bout of true homesickness as I was leaving language camp. It seemed so strange to be leaving a camp but not to be going home. I've come home from so many camps in my lifetime, so this experience was just similar enough to make me miss the way it had always been in the past. But as we always say in Rotary, "Nothing is better or worse, just different".

I went back to school on Monday, of course. Two of my friends, Mary and Věrka, are in France right now with the choir and will be gone for the rest of the week, so I have been having a little bit of trouble finding people to talk to.

I'm still trying to find my place here, which is quite normal, I suspect. :) I'm looking forward to the time when I'll fit in like I've always lived here...


Katie Vandemark said...

Hi Karmin,
I have so much fun reading about your experiences! I have meant to sit down with Elsa and Neal to read them outloud and haven't had a chance yet, so I am going to write back to you now. They can have their chance another time.
When I read your blog, it reminds me what an amazing person you are. You enthusiasm and courage is truly inspiring.
I got a headache just thinking about you trying to learn Czech for 8 hours a day. Some words of wisdom from someone who moved to Mexico without a single word and proceeded to worry about conjugating my verbs properly: Don't do it! George always just spoke without thinking about grammar, etc.. and he learned much faster and better than I did. Easier said than done though.
Our lives are much busier now that I am working. I got a job as school counselor/psychologist at the Middle School. It's half time and it's a lot of fun. Half time works well for all of us (we get dinners, etc...)
Elsa is in volleyball right now and she is doing so well (for a fourth grader). Neal is in soccer and went to his first Smart Start Football practice (very mellow pre-football experience).
They had their first babysitter since you the other night, if you can believe it. She is our neighbor, but I know they miss you.
I hope you keep writing your blogs. They are fun to read and it's so good to know how you are doing. If I could hug you right now I would. Instead, I am sending you a web hug>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Tyler G. said...

I havent been to too many camps in my life but that one sounds like fun. Learning a different language is hard even if you know a little anyway but hang in there and enjoy your self.