Prague, AIPES, American Institute on Political and Economic Systems, The Fund for American Studies, TFAS

Monday, July 31, 2006

Buchki, Buchki, Buchki! Celebrating the End of Classes

(Originally posted 7/26/06; revised 7/31/06)
Today is the last day of leading discussion groups. Tomorrow is the exam. I am sad to see the program ending, but at the same time a little relieved.

It was like non-stop running. Our daily schedule (while we were teaching) looked something like this:

6:30 a.m.: Wake up, shower, get dressed
7-7:30 a.m.: Wait in line for breakfast
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast, re-read articles for discussion groups
8:30 a.m.: Leave for class
9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.: Mike's lecture
12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m.: 1st discussion group
1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.: 2nd discussion group
2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m.: Guest lecture
4:00-4:30 p.m.: Head back to the dorms
4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.: Nap, shower, begin prepping for next day
6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.: Dinner at the dorm or with Matt and the other TAs
7:00 p.m.-?: Read and prep for the next day's discussion groups
(some times 9:00 p.m.-?: Go out to a pub or club with the students)
Midnight-6:30 a.m.: Sleep!

That's the Monday-Friday schedule. Saturdays also generally are packed with events scheduled all day! Even though they were optional for the TAs, we always went along with what the students were doing. Sundays were our only free days--and even then, we had (optional) events planned.

Getting back to the classes... Overall, I have to say I've been disappointed in how my discussion groups have gone. It's been hard to get the students totally interested in the discussions because (1) they party all night so we're lucky they show up to the discussion groups; (2) the rooms are all lecture rooms so everyone faces me instead of each other and you have to shout to be heard; and (3) the rooms are all 100 degrees and everyone is ready to pass out from the heat.

So this morning one of the girls told me that they all love the discussion groups in spite of the room problems. She said that if everyone weren't out partying all night they would probably be more animated during the discussions, but that she was telling people from Kirsten's group how she and others in my sections were lucky because they got the "cool TA." :-) LOL. These kids know how to suck up. We have heard rumors through Hilen that Kirsten is known as the "mean TA" and I'm known as the "nice/easy TA." I'm not sure which is really better, but I guess I'd glad to have a reputation for being a nice TA. Here are pictures of my two discussion groups (though a lot of students from one group switched into the other group for some reason, so one of the groups looks really small and the other looks really big)...

To celebrate the end of the program (almost), Mike and Sue took Kirsten and me out to dinner at a swanky restaurant on the Charles River. In front of the restaurants stood the best statues in Prague. And there are thousands of statues in Prague!

Link to photo -- for some reason, this photo won't upload!! But it's a MUST-SEE!

Are these statues not spectacular?

Unfortunately, I still was less satisfied by the food at the swanky restaurant. Upscale food in Prague is surprisingly dismal. We were seated outside right on the water in this cool, ultra-modern restaurant with great ambience. But surprisingly, the food was kind of so-so. I had prawns with rice and vegetables cooked in a parchment paper. (The menu description made it sound better than that.) It was OK--the prawns weren't that fresh and the flavor was kind of bland. The salad I had as a starter was totally swimming in dressing--it tasted good, I guess, but it was not a good salad by Seattle "five-star restaurant" standards... But it was a lot of fun to get out of the dorm and have a nice night with the econ crew.

Anyways, so fine dining in Prague may be one of the least remarkable aspects about this great city. Street hot dogs and pub food are great, but fine dining kind of sucks. Last week, we went to this spendy restaurant up this humongous hill with an amazing view. The food was quite expensive for Prague and sounded pretty elegant from the descriptions. I ordered "chicken breast wrapped in pastry" and "potato croquettes." The pastry-wrapped chicken turned out to be a breaded and fried chicken breast. The potato croquettes were like Ore-Ida tater tots, but perfectly round like those cheese balls that come in a can. Ick. But whatever. It's all better than the dorm food and since all these meals are on "The Fund" (The Fund for American Studies is the non-profit that sponsors the AIPES program) we don't have to pay for them... and I, for one, am happy with any meal that The Fund wants to buy me.

(BTW, "buchki" is a drinking cheer in Georgia. It was the most repeated phrase throughout the end of AIPES. It refers to a bush--when everyone raises their glasses together to toast, it looks like the branches of a bush.)


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