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

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hilen at Heathrow...?

Hilen traveled to Spain after AIPES and just sent an email yesterday about being en route to London on her way back to the States....... Crazy timing with all the drama at Heathrow!!! I hope her flight schedule isn't too disrupted...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Weight a Minute...?

So yesterday, after four weeks of eating a whole lot of junk (since my Prague diet consisted primarily of fried foods, ice cream, pastries, and such) and working out sporadically at best, I got on the scale to assess the damage. I almost fell onto the floor when I saw the results. According to my scale, I have not gained any weight from before my trip!

This must mean one of two things--either:

1) I've been working out and eating healthy for God knows how many years for no good reason,


2) My scale is broken and I really weigh 350 pounds.

Hmmm, I hope I don't weight 350 pounds.

Random Pics II

I just keep finding new pics to post as the students add to Here's another from the country presentation night...

Lou, Claudia (Romania), me, and Tamas (Hungary)... Claudia is super sweet and goes to Northwestern University. Tamas is also really sweet! He was kind enough to explain a little bit about soccer to me during the World Cup championship.

Here's one of the four TAs with Matt... This was in Bechyne before the jazz festival. This was when we ordered the enchiladas w/ ketchup and the "hot love" dessert.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Random Pics

...I've pulled these off of, which everyone agreed to use to share their photos. (If you want, you can go to zoto and put "AIPES" in the search field.)

Here's one of a bunch of students at the U.S. Ambassador's residence. It was nice to be on U.S. soil if only because there were (finally!) iced beverages!! From right to left: Marco (from Croatia), Lorena (also from Croatia, I believe), Brady (from the U.S.), and Neli (from Bulgaria).

Here's one from country presentation night. Me with Iuliana from Moldova... She was totally camera happy--she took pictures everywhere. Of everyone. Many times. :-)

One of Iuliana and Christina (also of Moldova)... Two of the nicest girls!

And one of Iuliana and Diaz (of Kazakhstan) at the Ambassador's residence...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


So it occurred to me that in all this time, I never really posted about AIPES or how I got involved in this awesome program.

AIPES stands for the American Institute on Political and Economic Studies. It is a program sponsored by The Fund for American Studies (or TFAS). Fourteen years ago, after the fall of Communism, these American guys decided it would be a great idea to establish an academic program in Central/Eastern Europe on capitalism and democracy. That's how AIPES was born. The program started with two professors from Georgetown University. The politics professor, Jim Lengle, is still teaching in the program. But the economics professor has been rotating. Mike Veseth, the International Political Economy department director at the University of Puget Sound, taught the economics component last year. Mike invited me last fall to come to Prague as a teaching assistant, so that's basically how I got involved.

The Fund has programs all over the world: Hong Kong, Greece, D.C., etc. The Greece program is about conflict resolution, so it's mostly for students from the Middle East. About 10 students or so in this year's Greece program are Lebanese... and they just happened to leave Lebanon shortly before the airport was blown up. These students have no way of going home! So now TFAS is working on trying to find places for the students to study in the States (if they want to) so they don't fall behind in their coursework. So sad!

Here are some links about TFAS and AIPES.

Lou's Funny Stories

So Lou, the 4th TA, had some hilarious stories. So our breakfast conversations were always like this

Lou: Wendy, did I ever tell you about that time when my girlfriend in high school bought me this really big gold chain for my birthday?

Me: Um... No....

Lou: So, I had this girlfriend in high school... and for my birthday, she bought me this really big, gold-plated chain......."

[Me: Sitting there wondering what the hell he was talking about....]

But the best story went like this:

Lou: Wendy, did I ever tell you about that time when I got beat up by a bunch of kids?"

Me: Um... No...

Lou: So my friend and I were walking to the bus stop and I was counting my change when this guy--he looked like he was about 12--comes up and says, "Give me your money!" I was like, "No. I need it for the bus." So the guy says to my buddy, "Give me your watch!" And my friend goes, "No." So the kid goes away and my buddy and I kept walking to the bus stop. A few minutes later, the guy comes back with like 10 of his friends and they start hitting us and pounding on us and we tried to run away, but they just kept hitting us.

Me (horrified): Oh my god! How old were you when this happened?!

Lou: 22.

I almost died laughing... The guy does have a good sense of humor.

He's also really into puns. One night, he and I were walking back from somewhere and he goes, "What do you call two politicians in Prague doing a tightrope act?" And I was like, "Um. I don't know--what?" So he starts laughing at his own joke as he answers: "Czechs and balances."

He reeled off like 6 of them in a row. He must have been thinking of them in advance. Here is a sampling:

What do you call a girlfriend you meet in Prague? (Answer: Czech mate)

What do you say to the cashier at a grocery store in Prague? (Answer: Czech me out)

What do you call a person in Prague on a pogo stick? (Answer: Bounced Czech)

Ugh. I hate puns.

Other Prog Blogs

Here's a link to a blog from a student's perspective. Michael Collins was in my discussion group--he is a super smart student.

And here's a link to Mike Veseth's blog.

Pictures from Graduation Day

So the last day in Prague started with the economics final exam... Then, we had a break for lunch... Then we had the graduation ceremony... And after that was the graduation party.

Here's a picture of the exam I proctored--70 students taking the econ exam for graduate credit... which means 70 exams I have to grade in the next couple of weeks!! Ack!

Here's one from lunch after the final exam, but before the graduation ceremony. Mike's favorite meal in Prague is pork knuckle. On his first day in Prague, we had lunch at this pub (one of the only air-conditioned restaurants in Prague) and he had a pork knuckle then too. On the last day, we decided to go to the same place so he could have another one... He ate the whole thing both times... along with a big glass of pivo of course!

Following the graduation ceremony, there was a nice reception--here's one from the reception: me with Peter (from Slovakia) on the left and Pavel (from the Czech Republic) on the right. They were two of the nicest guys!

Here's another one from the graduation reception. That's Jan (the Czech logistics guy--Mr. Janda!) on the left.

And this is Jan, Hilen, me, Kirsten, and Matt at the graduation party. Matt is smashed. Matt and Jan are wearing t-shirts we had made for them as thank-you gifts. :-) Matt's says "The best of... the best of the best of the best........." (It was an ongoing joke through the 3-week program because of Matt's speech at orientation.) Jan's says "Husband For Hire. JJ fixes everything" in Spanish. We got it because Jan is the fix-it guy. Whenever anything went wrong, we called on Jan to fix it. And it's in Spanish because Jan is learning Spanish--he speaks like 5 languages. He's amazing! Ahhh, good times.