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Driving 102 – harder than I thought

Back at the end of January I started going to driving school and arranging to take the tests in order to get my class B (passenger) Czech driving license or řidičák.

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This process turned out to be more challenging  and took longer than I imagined.  To be clear, I understand the traffic laws here and can say with no hesitation (and many people to confirm) that I am a very good driver.  In Canada I had a car, bus and motorcycle license and worked in automotive for a decade.  I’m not a new driver by any stretch.  My Canadian license was expiring in February so I had to get things in gear.

After attending driving school, there are two parts to the process:

Written test

This takes place at the Magistrate Office in Prague 10.  This is the only office in Prague for written tests.  My school arranged the test date and time and I did not need to pay anything at this time.  When you arrive go upstairs and find your instructor, they will register you with the office and take your documents.

You will need you identification – passport or dlouhodoby pobyt (long term residence card) with appropriate stamps and address information to prove you have been here at least 180 days.  I also took my approval letter since I was still waiting for my long term residence.

Unless you have learned Czech really well, you will need a certified translator.  The questions are tricky, even for native speakers.  Likely your school will suggest or supply a translator.  My advice here is to be very careful.  My recommended translator was busy, so they suggested someone else.  This translator had little to no experience with the test and was translating word for word as we went, meaning I was not getting the context and connotation of the words.  Had I not studied a lot both in Czech and English it would have been a disaster.  Cost of the translator: 1,500Kč

What is the test like?

I arrived early on February 12th and waited for the process to start.

Surprise!  Even though I had had a vision and colour vision test at a doctor before I was allowed to attend driving school, there was a ten question colour vision test before I could start the main test.  I am colour blind.  This surprise threw me off completely and I struggled with the dot test as well as strange mathematical answers to some of the dot tests (not “what number do you see?” but “is the number “65-14, 65+14 or 76-2?”.  I did pass, but just.

The main test is 25 multiple choice questions, some text and some with pictures.  You have 30 minutes to complete it.  With the challenges around the translation I completed it with 30 seconds remaining and passed by only one point.  Some of the questions I knew already in Czech, most I had seen during my studies, but a few were entirely new.  It would be nice if extra time was given to allow for the translation slowing things down.  But a pass is a pass, no matter how slim, and I moved on.  At the end you will receive a document confirming you passed.

Driving test (round one)

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At the end of the same week I was scheduled to take the driving test.  I had the option of going to the school in Dejvická, or meeting my instructor at the Magistrate’s office and being the first to be tested. I opted for the first test which found me there at 7:15AM on February 18th waiting with a healthy fear of the unknown.  This fear, it turns out, was not unfounded.

There were a large number of driving school cars waiting in the parking lot behind the magistrate’s office.  In the past police performed the test but now it is a dedicated group of magistrates.  We waited for our tester to arrive.

There is a possibility they will ask you to do a walk around the car and identify all the mandatory safety equipment, this did not happen for me.

The test itself was from the office to the school location in Dejvická.  Here is what happened:

  • Magistrate came out and sat in the back of the car, directly behind me.
  • I said good morning in my best Czech and apologized for my poor language skills.  No response.
  • He identified himself, his badge number and title and then explained the procedure to my instructor.
  • I was instructed to leave the parking area and follow instructions.
  • We went through the city, I was careful to not exceed the speed limit in any way.
  • At one point we came to a no entry road, but I was given no instructions to turn so I slowed to a stop while waiting for instructions (my mistake was to hesitate).  In the end I made a decision and turned left before instead of entering the no entry road.
  • I was told three times to put both hands on the wheel, even though at the time I had both hands on the wheel (I was aware and very careful about this rule).
  • We went through Karlovo náměstí and then through a series of smaller streets before rejoining the main road and going to Dejvická.
  • We parked, nose in, in a normal parking spot.

I was then informed that I had failed due to not yielding to traffic on my right while going through the small streets around Karlovo náměstí.  In the Czech Republic, if you are not on a main road you have to give way to traffic from the right, a rule I am very well aware of.  There was no discussion, no debate, and I understood the magistrate when he called me špatný řidič which is Czech for bad driver.

This is one of the intersections in question, the sign is informing you to yield to traffic on your right:

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Although I know I was aware of these intersections as I went through them, there was no traffic and nobody to yield to.  I was really quite shocked at this turn of events, and then angry.  Later in the day I felt slightly better when I learned the magistrate had failed all seven students at the school that morning.  Statistically improbable.  Worse still, the next test date was not until March 3rd, and of course would cost me an extra 880Kč!

Driving test (round two)

My Canadian license was set to expire on February 25th (my birthday).  I took the opportunity before that to drive as much as possible around Prague and also away for a weekend in Žatec.  I focused on the areas and routes between the school and the magistrate office.  This made me feel better about the process and helped confirm that the assessment of me was incorrect – I actually look for traffic on my left and right even when I do have the right of way. I also took advantage of an offer from my instructor to do one more driving lesson the Sunday before the test.

I arrived at the magistrate’s office early on March 3rd, very nervous and concerned about the prospect of another bad experience.  I was pleasantly surprised:

  • The magistrate was late, he arrived at 7:45.  This pleased me as it meant more morning traffic which I actually find easier to concentrate in (and ignore the test).  He sat in the rear passenger seat so I could turn to speak to him.
  • Again I used my best Czech to great him and explain I speak very little Czech.  This time he acknowledged me. He was not friendly, but he was polite and spoke slowly so I could understand him.
  • My instructor explained my driving history and what the issue was during the last test.
  • I was instructed to drive to Dejvická via the more direct highway route using Barrandov most and the tunnels.  My instructor told me where to turn if necessary.
  • During the trip the instructor and the magistrate chatted about various things.  I just drove carefully, watching the speed limit, and keeping two hands on the wheel.
  • We arrived in Dejvická, I parked on the street and the test was over.  No issues.

After waiting for a few moments at the school (and paying the extra 880Kč) I was given documents to take to the license registration office (registr řidičů)..

What license registration office?

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This part of the process was a bit of a surprise to me.  My instructor explained to me I would need to take all the documentation to the registration office at Vyšehrad, complete a form, supply a photo and then wait for 20 days while they process it.  I was also told to wait until the next day for my test results to be entered into the system.

I decided to go to the office on the way home to get the required form to fill out and return the following day.  This was fortunate as it turned out that two trips were not necessary.  I needed:

  • Test and training document supplied by the school and stamped by the magistrate.
  • My dlouhodoby pobyt AND passport as I needed to prove I had been in the country more than 180 days.
  • A photo (available in the office next door for 125Kč).

A very helpful woman explained in careful Czech that everything was now done on the computer and I could apply immediately as she would enter it into the system.  I went off to get photos and she was nice enough to wave me back to her window to finish with me.  Spend enough time at government offices here and these small acts of cooperation and kindness are truly appreciated.  Other than a 50Kč fee to be paid when I pick up the license, there were no other fees.

I was given a small piece of paper and told to come back on March 23rd for my license. On further investigation I learned that is the maximum processing time and current processing information can be found online – 16 days at the time of this writing.

Wrapping it up!

To summarize:

  • Driving school (as noted this is pricing for Czech students) : 10,980Kč
  • Medical examination: 400Kč
  • Translator: 1,500Kč
  • First driving test: 700Kč
  • Second driving test: 880Kč
  • Photos: 125Kč
  • License fee: 50Kč

Total:  14,635Kč

Update:  it was in fact 16 days.  The day my application date appeared online, I went to pick up the license and was in and out in under five minutes.

What next?  Even before passing the second test, I had already purchased a used car – an entirely new adventure you can read about in my next post.

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Driving 101

I am a car guy, I love cars.  My first car, when I was 10 years old, was a 1973 VW Beetle.  I’ve had my license since I was 16, had many, many cars and driven more than the average number of kms both for work and pleasure.

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One of my commitments to myself in moving back to the Czech Republic was that I would get a car. Of course this means I also need a Czech driving license.  You are not able to get a Czech license on your initial six month visa, but once you have a residence permit you are not legally allowed to use your foreign license anymore. There are people who have lived here for years and still use a North American license but I am not willing to risk it.

Why is it a challenge?  Canada does not belong to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.  This means that in order to get a license here (or anywhere in Europe) I need to go to driving school.

What does driving school mean here?

Class “B” – theory lessons:
Regulations on vehicle operation 5 lessons
Regulations on driving and maintenance 1 lesson
Driving theory and safe driving practices 3 lessons
Basic first aid 1 lesson
Revision and practice test 1 lesson
Class “B” – driving/practice lessons
Driving – closed course 2 lessons
Driving – light traffic 5 lessons
Driving – normal traffic 12 lessons
Driving – heavy traffic/difficult driving conditions 9 lessons
Vehicle maintenance practice 2 lessons
First aid practice 4 lessons

One lesson = 45 minutes.

This is a rather large commitment!  And prices range from 10,000Kč and up.  In the end I chose a school called Amos, in Dejvická.  It was recommended by my girlfriend and they offered me the course without charging an English language supplement.  The instructor speaks as much English as I speak Czech, so although I don’t need driving lessons, I am getting Czech lessons out of this.  If you don’t have any Czech, or driving experience, spend the extra money and get an instructor who speaks English.

Medical

You will need to find a doctor to give you a medical exam before you can start at school.  This proved a challenge and in the end I found a very small clinic that did it for 400Kč.  You can download the form here.

School

We have now completed all the necessary drives around Prague.  The school also supplied me with badly translated English versions of all the pertinent regulations to study.

One grey area is that I am still waiting for my long term residence card.  I have been assured that as long as I can prove I have lived here over 185 days, and can provide my passport and address information, they will allow me to take the tests.

Sites you might find useful:

Czech online test system.  Note there are printed tests available and you can translate these as I have done.

Online intersection tests.  Again in Czech, but it will give you an idea what to expect.

What next?  

I am scheduled for a written test at the magistrates office in Vršovice.  For this I have to bring a registered translator.  Cost is 700Kč for the test (this will include the driving test fee).  The translator charges 1,500Kč.

After this, but the same week, I will have the driving test at my school in Dejvická.

Once complete, I should receive the actual license in 10 to 20 days.

Total cost will be approximately 13,200Kč.

I’ll update with more on the experience once it is all done.

 

 

Long term residence permit part three (again!)

Whew!  It has been even quieter than usual here.  I do apologize.

If you have been following, since my last post I have been waiting for my residence approval. There was a complication. At the end of December I received a nice letter stating two things:

  1. My proof of income had been rejected as it was not in Czech.  This was my fault as I took a risk sending printouts from the website rather than certified copies.  FIO was able to give me a summary of all months in one giant statement and only charged one fee. 120Kč.
  2. They wanted me to prove I made enough money not only to support myself, by also my partner. In 2012 I had applied for a partnership visa with my Czech girlfriend, after nine months of trying to provide enough information to make them happy we finally broke up and I went back to Canada just long enough to reset my Schengen clock.  Being asked to prove I could support a partner I no longer had, and that they never accepted I had, was interesting.

So, I mailed (by registered mail) my updated a bank statements as well as a notarized místopřísežné prohlášení, a document my ex signed to state we were no longer partners.

On January 11th my application number appeared on the approval spreadsheet.  I had a friend call and make an appointment for January 28th.  This means my application took from October 15th to January 11th to be approved – 89 days.

On January 28th I went back to the Chodov office for my biometrics appointment.  They took my photo and fingerprints.  They also verified my address.

One complication.  They now wanted my expired residence card from when I lived here in 2014.  This is the first time it was mentioned, no one has ever asked to see it or verify it as I was starting over again.  I offered to bring it back when I pick up my card, that seemed to satisfy them.  They issued an approval document and gave me an appointment to come back to pick up the card (as well as pay the 2,500Kč fee in kolek).

The final steps:

On February 18th I went back to the office at Chodov and picked up my shiny new dlouhodoby pobyt and paid the 2,500Kč.  I am now legal until November 2017.

The following Monday I returned to the zivnostensky office where they copied my new residence card and issued my zivno with the same expiration date as my permit.

Total cost of this entire process:  2,880Kč (primarily the actual fee for the permit)

I’m now done this lovely process until the fall of 2017.

Long term residence permit part two (again!)

Let me first apologize for how quiet it has been here lately.  I am in limbo while I wait for my residence permit, and I have also been working an awful lot the last months.

Part one of the process can be found here.  I will make this entry as concise as possible.

What happened since my last entry:

  • Social service tax clearance letter came in the mail about two weeks after I applied for it.
  • I applied for my zivnostensky extension at the office in Prague 7.  They speak English, it was short and painless – I needed my passport, my existing zivnostensky and that was it.  The extension is valid for six months.  It was ready in one week.  Cost 100Kč.
  • Income tax clearance letter was completed, I received a phone call to pick it up at the tax office in Prague 7 (not the same office I applied for it at, but conveniently the same building and the same day my zivnostensky approval was ready).

Moral of the story: next time I will go back to the original offices I used for both social service and income tax as that is where I ended up in the end.

  • Housing document (doklad ubytovani).  My landlord was nice enough to give me an open one and even met me at the Czech Point to have it notarized.  Cost 30Kč.
  • Bank records.  I went to my bank, Fio, and was informed that official copies of my bank statement are now 100Kč per page.  I took a calculated risk and printed them at home.  I then printed every invoice I have on file and attached them to the appropriate months.
  • Completed application form from the Ministry of Interior website.
  • Finally, I made copies of everything.

The Appointment:

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My six month visa was set to expire on November 4th, so I made the appointment for October 15th to allow a couple of weeks yet have as much proof of income as I could.  As noted before, I don’t recommend the first appointment as you can’t get near the door.

At the office in Chodov there are two floors, when I made the appointment they said to go to the first floor.  After waiting, my name did not come up in the list on computer, so I went back to the main floor and found myself on that list.  Then we (my Czech friend and I) waited.  And waited. It was about one hour past my appointment time when my number finally came up.

What happens at the appointment?

The took all of the paperwork, copied my passport, copied my proof of health insurance and health card.  I had already purchased an additional two years health insurance from my original provider.

The appointment took one hour.

There was one complication.  They were very reluctant to accept my proof of income based on invoices and bank statements but instead wanted my 2014 tax return.  This is normal procedure when renewing a two year residence to another two year, but not when applying for the first two year permit.  I am in a grey area due to being here in 2014 and therefore having a tax return.  Unfortunately my tax return doesn’t show enough income to support my application, so I convinced them to also take my bank statements.  Details on current income requirements can be found here.

There is no cost to apply for the permit, only once it is approved will you need to pay.

At the end of the appointment they gave me a letter proving I had applied and listed a reference number.  If they required something from me it would be listed on this letter, but I had nothing outstanding.  This letter (or a copy) must be carried with you as it proves you are legally in the country.  Although I asked for a bridge visa (a visa to let you leave and re-enter the country during processing) they refused to issue one until after my initial visa had expired.

What now?

I wait.  As of this writing it has been seven weeks.  Every Monday you need to check the MOI website and search for yourself on the spreadsheet they publish.

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Crunching the numbers.

Very recently I was discussing Prague and teaching and immigration with someone who is moving here, and the question of costs came up.  How much are things?  What does it cost to live here in Prague?

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There are many good resources on the internet including the Expats cost of living report.  I won’t be converting all these numbers to Canadian or American dollars or even Euros because, as I’ve mentioned before, you’ll be heartbroken if you keep thinking in anything other than Czech Crowns (Koruna, or Kč).  As of this writing it was about 19.5Kc to a Canadian dollar, 25Kc to a US dollar and 27Kc to a Euro.

Anything I put here is based on my personal, real life experience here in Prague – your results may vary.  So, what are some numbers to consider?

A home

During my time in Prague I have lived in two places.  The first, a tiny little studio in Holešovice, with easy access to metros and trams:

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This was a partly furnished suite and with all utilities came to about 9,400Kc per month.  My internet was included in this and was about 400Kc per month.  My very simple furnishings, some new and some used from a local Nabytek, cost about 6,000Kc.  As I rented direct from the owner there was no reality fee, just one months security deposit.  If using an agent expect to pay the equivalent of one month rent as a fee.

On returning to Prague I decided to try shared accommodation.  This time around  I have a fantastic view and am a two minute walk from Vyšehrad.

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The downside is I share a flat with four other people.  And I have a tiny, tiny room.

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On the other hand it is only 7,500Kc per month, minimal deposit, no long term lease and no furniture to buy.  There are definitely cheaper rooms to be had – check out the flatshare in Prague page on Facebook – but this is a two level suite with huge kitchen and 3.5 bathrooms between us.  A good compromise.

For housing ideas check out Home Sweet Home, Bezreality or Sreality.  If you will be teaching like I do, I’d recommend making sure you have good transit connections.

Health insurance

There is a lot of information available on this topic.  Be sure to get a plan that covers the visa requirements, most companies offer one tailor made for this.  The first go around I used Slavia and was satisfied (although I only ever needed it once) but this time I tried Uniqa though an English speaking broker – Czech Insure.  Good news, Slavia was nearly 10,000Kc for one year before, my new policy is only 7,500.  That is only 625Kc per month – 1/2 what I paid in Canada.

Transit

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Prague has a fantastic and very economical transit system.  You can find all the fees on the DPP website, but a monthly pass on an open card (transit pass with your photo on it) is only 550Kc (less if you buy more than one month at a time) while a transferable pass can had for 670Kc per month.

Social service tax

If you are self employed on a zivnostenky list (trade license) you will be paying your social service tax monthly – be prepared to part with 1943Kc per month no matter if you work or not.  My understanding is that if you work for a company and also have a zivnostensky list you will be able to reduce this by half, but I have never done it.

Other things?

My experience has been that many things like clothing and food are cheaper here, particularly if they aren’t imported, but since you make less on average it isn’t really any different.

A nice masala tea at a tea room?  80Kc

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Dinner out for two at a nice restaurant?  Maybe a movie after?  Budget 1,000kc if you intend to have drinks and dessert….

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How does it all add up?

If you are working full time as a teacher you will survive quite comfortably on what you make, not luxuriously, but well enough.  Booking 20-25 classes per week and allowing for early cancellations I am usually in the 22,000-30,000Kc per month range. If you intend to travel, especially to Euro based countries, things will get a little tight quite quickly.  Go east, or south into the Balkans and you can still have great trips.

One week of teaching ESL…

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This post is primarily aimed at new and prospective teachers, others following my blog might not find it very exciting!

Here is what a typical week looks like for an in-company teacher.  Teachers on contract to one specific school can expect something completely different.  Keep in mind I am self employed and work for two different schools as well as teach my own students.  No two weeks are ever quite the same as there are always cancellations, some early cancellations (where you don’t get paid – either 24 hours ahead or by 5 the previous day depending on your agreement) and some late or on arrival cancellations (still annoying, but at least you get paid for them).  During the last four months I have had a 22% overall early cancellation rate.

I teach about 20 classes per week, one to one and groups, either 60 or 90 minutes and covering all levels of students.

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A word about lesson planning: 

I purposely keep most of Monday free for lesson planning.  No doubt some teachers do planning every day, I like to do it all at once and then not think about it again.   It takes me about 6 hours of steady work to prepare lesson plans for my week as well as a trip to my main school to print out the necessary material.  It cost about 900Kc to buy a printer/scanner/copier and it was money well spent as I scan any texts I need, this means I only have to take a memory stick to my school and I have a scanned copy on file with my lesson plan should I ever want to teach that lesson again.  And I almost certainly will!  Remember you aren’t being paid for this time, so making a flexible lesson plan that covers many lessons might take longer to write but in the end saves a lot of planning.

Number one tip for lesson planning?  Recycle, recycle, recycle.  Material can be used for different levels and different classes.  Keep everything!

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A word about commuting:

You’ll see below that I spend a lot of time commuting.  This is unavoidable when teaching in-company and private students.   Some teachers plan while they commute but so far my experience is that I am almost always in full buses, trams and metros with little chance to sit down.  As much as possible try to “block” your classes to eliminate commuting time.  I live in Holešovice and have purposely taken classes that can be reached conveniently and quickly.

Number one tip for commuting?  Don’t take a new course without knowing where it is and how it fits into your plan.

The week in review.

Monday:

Other than lesson planning I had three classes on Monday:

08:00  Karlin.  One hour private conversation covering business and economics topic with some grammar review.  Not my normal day for this student but I try to be flexible.

16:30  Holešovice. One hour in company pre-intermediate group lesson based on a textbook.  Two out of four students were present and the lesson focused on happiness and what makes people happy.

17:30  One hour in the same company with an upper-intermediate group.  One out of five students present, a student I had never met before, so I quickly switched gears to a backup one to one lesson with personal conversation and lots of error correction.

Total teaching time three hours, total commuting time about 50 minutes.

Tuesday:

08:00  Skalka.  One hour upper intermediate one to one conversation lesson at a large power company.  An enjoyable class with lots of conversation about economics and the economy of Europe.

14:00  Hlavní nádraží.  One hour intermediate group conversation lesson at a finance company.  Two very talkative students and a great lesson about words to describe food.

16:45  Holešovice.  One hour private lesson at my flat with a very nice student interested in all kinds of topics.  I re-used some of my earlier food lesson plan but adjusted for a slightly higher level student.

18:00  Holešovice.  One hour upper intermediate group lesson at an online marketing company.  After arriving and getting setup I waited, and waited and then eventually sent an SMS to see where my two students were – one missing, one sick.  Packed up and went home.

Total teaching time three hours plus one paid hour for a late cancellation.  Commute time about two hours.

Wednesday:

07:30  Budějovická.  90 minute one to one advanced business conversation lesson at a different power company.  This student is very busy and had been away for a month so we focused on general conversation as well as a short video on the importance of sleep.

09:30  Still in Budějovická but at a different company for another one to one 90 minute lesson but this time with an intermediate student.  We focused on vocabulary for the student’s specific industry.

12:30  Not enough time to go home so after hanging out and having a snack in Budějovická it was back to Skalka area for yet another 90 minute one to one lesson with an advanced student.  This particular student is very talkative and interesting and the time usually goes by quite quickly.  I brought along a conversation starter document about desk jobs and the working environment.

15:30  After a quick stop at home for a tea it was off on foot to the final class of the day.  Another 90 minute upper intermediate business conversation.  Again I brought along a conversation, this time about Greece and the crisis.

Total teaching time six hours.  Commute time just under two hours.

Thursday:

Normally my Thursday would start at 07:30 but this student was away on vacation.

08:30  U Elektry (Prague 8).  Normally blocked with the 07:30 class these two classes are at a small marketing company.  Currently the trams are under construction so what used to take me 20 minutes on one tram now takes 35 and involves three transfers.  A good intermediate student and a fun class with telephone role-playing.

13:00  Budějovická.  After a stop at home for a break and lunch it was back to Budějovická.  A 90 minute pre-intermediate group class focused on general English and textbook based.  Although I usually only get two from the five students in the course they are always interested in the class.

14:30  Still at Budějovická and in the same building which makes a nice block of classes.  A brand new intermediate business student with a 90 minute conversation class.  First classes usually go well and it is a good chance to learn what the student needs and wants.

18:00  After another stop at home for a light lunch it was off to the same class I teach on Tuesdays at 18:00. This time they showed up but were both very sick.

Total teaching time five hours with a commute time of about two and a half hours.

Friday:

Whew, just about there!

08:00 Roztyly.  A one to one advanced general conversation class and the furthest I travel during the week.  It was a good class, recycling some of my previous sleep lessons and adding some new material for the advanced student.

11:30  Once again in Holešovice for the first of two back to back one hour classes.  This student is quite advanced, and very very busy so the lesson both started late and ended early.

13:30  Last class of the day and the week and it ended with the second one to one class, this student is upper intermediate business and quite a good conversationalist.

Total teaching time three hours with a commute time of about one hour and forty minutes.

There is a lot of variety in a week, it is one of the best things about teaching.  On the other hand for the 21 paid hours of teaching I had an additional nine hours of commuting plus six hours of prep time.  Of course there is also down time between classes where you can’t really do anything or go anywhere, but none the less aren’t working.

To put it in simple perspective, assuming you don’t get a huge number of cancellations you can expect about a 36 to 40 hour work week in exchange for about 25,000Kc before taxes.  Not fantastic, but not unreasonable in Prague.

Canadian, eh?

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Being Canadian isn’t something I give a lot of thought to, we usually aren’t a very patriotic people and I’m less patriotic than most.  One of the things I admire about a lot of the people I meet is a distinct sense of culture.  Most or my students can easily point to something they consider to be “Czech” – often beer or food – and then ask me to tell them something that is typically Canadian and I am at a loss.  It is too big a country with too many different cultures mixed in.  Usually at this point it comes up that I don’t like hockey, and can’t even skate.   Still, many of my students want to know something about Canada.

Fortunately a friend recently posted something that helps me explain some things about Canada and also works wonderfully to demonstrate how not all English is equal.  Or comprehensible.  Language can indeed be a barrier to communication:

“I’m going to collect the loonies and toonies out of my knapsack and head to The Beer Store for a two-four.  On my way back, I’ll pick us up a double-double and some timbits, then we can have that back bacon for breakfast.  If you spill your Tim’s because I’m driving 20 clicks over the speed limit, I’ll give you a serviette to use in the washroom.  And don’t worry—I’ve got a mickey of vodka to put in our caesars. Save me a seat on the chesterfield, eh?”

After reading this I realized that about 90% of my ESL students would have only a vague idea what the hell we were talking about.

Loonie-Toonie

Loonies and toonies?  Okay, so we can figure out it is money quick enough.  But what kind of country calls its currency a loonie?  This leads us back to waterfowl – the loon that appears on our dollar coins.  Introduced in 1987 to replace our one dollar bills, they quickly became known as loonies.  So in 1996 when the two dollar coin was introduced the name toonie was quickly adopted despite other suggestions.

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Knapsack, rucksack, backpack – all more or less the same thing.  I can’t explain why Canadians adopted a word of German origin to describe this essential accessory.

beer-store

You will notice it is not the beer store but instead The Beer Store.  Only people from Ontario will see the difference.  When I was a kid I remember it being called Brewers Retail – renaming themselves The Beer Store is marketing brilliance, it’s what everyone called them anyways.

two-four

And a two-four?  Easy, we buy our beer in cases of 24, the way nature intended!  The idea of this quantity of beer seems to make many of my students very happy.

Tim Hortons

The next couple of references come from what can only be described as real Canadian food:  Tim Hortons.  Coffee, doughnuts, food, and named after a hockey player – how much more Canadian can it get?  You will find them on every corner, in every town, everywhere.  Starbucks pales by comparison.

Double_Double  timbits

I’m not a coffee drinker, another strike against me as a true Canadian I guess.  Standing in line at Tim’s, as we affectionately call it, you won’t hear anyone order a tall non-fat soy latte.  No way, the most common thing will be an extra-large double-double – 24 oz of coffee with two cream and two sugar.  Not enough sugar to get you going? Add an order of timbits.  What other companies do with the holes they cut out of the doughnuts is a mystery – Tim’s cooks them, covers them in various sweet substances and sells them by the hundreds.

backbacon

Reflecting our British connections, you will often find the option of back bacon on a breakfast menu – a different cut of meat than the traditional bacon found elsewhere.  Outside of Canada you might find it referred to as Canadian Bacon.  Once again people from Ontario might disagree and call it peameal bacon, a leftover name from when the meat used to be rolled in cornmeal for a distinct taste and yellow colour.

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Unlike our friends to the south, Canada uses the metric system.  Kilometres are used for both distance and speed and you will often hear kilometre shortened to “k” or “klicks“.

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Need to clean up a little?  Here, have a serviette, or napkin.  Perhaps not as common as it used to be, but still heard all over Canada.  This is also a good time to introduce the idea that we don’t use toilet to describe the place where you go, only the actual toilet.  Washroom, bathroom, restroom, facilities, we will go to any length to avoid saying toilet.

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Had enough of all this?  Open that mickey of vodka and let’s kick back and relax.  There seems to be some disagreement about what a mickey is, and where the name came from but it is generally accepted to be about 375ml of alcohol.  Perfect for carrying with you.

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If you have some Clamato juice, Worcestershire sauce and celery we can make a Caesar.

chesterfield

In your living room you might find a sofa, couch, or chesterfield.  In some places a chesterfield is a specific kind of couch covered in buttons and quite plush, but for us it can be anything multiple people sit on.  It’s becoming an older word and fewer people use it now, but you still might be invited to have a seat on one.

Last, but certainly not least.  Eh?  Canadians will stick this at the end of sentence, always with a question mark.  It’s our way of inviting comment, asking for confirmation or just checking if you were listening.  

Take it easy, eh?

Final steps: foreign police and zivno office

Here you are with a nice new visa in your passport and an approved zivno.  There are only a few things left to do:

Register with the foreign police.  This has to happen within three business days of you entering the country with your new visa (even though if you are coming from within Schengen no one can tell when you entered).  Go to the foreign police office, take a number and wait.  **Note that there is a lot of different information on the internet about where to go but this office registered me, you can also find listings for other offices here.  This can be done alone but if you have a Czech friend now is a perfect time to ask them to come with you.  The foreign police spend all day registering people from outside of the Czech Republic but don’t speak anything but Czech.

Take your passport, your proof of medical insurance and a copy of your lease or housing document.  They will write your address in your passport and stamp it.  You are officially in!

**Another note:  The foreign police were not happy that I did not have my passport stamped when I originally entered the Czech Republic as a tourist even though this is the first time I have ever heard this and don’t think it applies to Canadians.  I did not argue, just apologized and he let it pass.

Now take your stamped passport back the folks at the zivno office and they will photocopy it and tell you to come back in a week for your final real zivno!  Even without this paper in hand you are legal and ready to look for work.

Only two more things to do:  taxes and social payment registration.

Getting a visa appointment…a lesson in patience

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Now you have your zivno approval in hand as well as a tidy pile of other documents.  You need an appointment at a Czech Embassy, in case you missed this point there are no Czech Embassies in the Czech Republic – you need to leave.  If you are a Canadian the good news is you can go to any Czech Embassy on the planet to apply for your visa, but keep in mind you need to return to the same embassy to pick it up.

Being based in Prague there are three embassies within easy reach:

Berlin

Bratislava

Vienna

Click the links to get the contact information and hours.  I emailed all of them the moment I knew I would have my zivno approval letter in a few days.  Vienna emailed me back within hours to say they could fit me in the next week!  What luck and don’t expect this – it is non uncommon to wait a month or more for the initial appointment, this is the reason you need to get this process going as soon as you arrive on your 90 day tourist entry.  Interestingly Bratislava emailed me a week later to say they could see me in a month and I never did hear back from Berlin.

As soon as you have your appointment date book your trip.  For Vienna I went by Student Agency bus – it was cheap and the timing worked well although you either have to take a night bus or stay the night as your appointment will always be in the morning.  Book your bus well in advance and save money!  It’s a good excuse for a couple of days in Vienna.  If you do go to Vienna I recommend Hostel Ruthensteiner as it was an easy 25 minute walk to the Embassy the next morning and the hostel was really nice!

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Next step:  the visa appointment.

Prague flood photos….

It’s amazing what a week of solid rain will do.

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