Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Sunday afternoons, so far, turn out to be a good time to write: I sit on my couch, throw a polar-fleece blanket over my lap (it's 20 degrees here this afternoon), and fire up the computer. Today, I'm nearly falling asleep into the bargain. Last night, the high school students celebrated their Winter Banquet, and we teachers dressed up and enjoyed the evening too; the only downside was waiting for Bus 119 in a knee-length dress and summer flats. My tights just weren't thick enough to keep out the cold night air. I've included a picture, just to prove that I changed my jeans to a dress for this affair:






















Between the Winter Banquet and various extracurricular activities, school is going well. This Tuesday marks the first day that I will have the 11th grade students (in addition to the 9th, 10th, and 12th graders). An 11th grade student caught me at the banquet last night & told me that she was 'looking forward to having me as a teacher'. I hope she really is looking forward to it, and not simply buttering me up for an A!

NOTES ON SCHOOL

For the past week, I've been regularly grossing out the 12th grade students as we read Oedipus Rex in class. It's been tricky to get past the serious ick factor involved in the Theban King's curse. Once past that, though, we've into a philosophical gold mine. All week, the students have piecing together the classical belief on fate: that the gods doomed Oedipus to kill his father, and so they are primarily responsible for his fate; that his personal flaws simply contribute to this fate, and so he cannot escape this evil. One of my students wrote in her journal that 'the gods created Oedipus evil' - which, in the classical tradition, is absolutely true. They are not 'nice guys', these Greek gods.

Lest you wonder what I'm teaching these poor kids at a Christian school, rest assured we look at the alternative side of things too: this week, we'll discuss the contemporary view of fate, but on Friday, we talked about the biblical view of fate. For this, we turned to my favourite Psalm:
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
Based on this quote, the students concluded that something like fate still exists, but in this case it is good. This is no classical doom, meted out by an avenging Apollo or an impersonal Fate. This is a beneficial one, a fate that comforts David as he thinks about it. The story of Oedipus Rex is (for my 12th grade class, at least) a channel of sorts: As we read about Oedipus, we come to understand other people better, to recognize the ingredients of a classical worldview (or, coming up next week, a modern one). And we come to understand the Bible better, to appreciate the intricacies of our own faith.

NOTES ON CZECH

Many of you knew me when I traveled to Germany, and if you received my 'Deutschland Saga' from Germany, you remember that I included notes on that culture (with a focus on food and chocolate, of course!). Here, I thought I'd do the same thing, starting with public transportation.

Let me say this first: I love public transportation. Every morning, I head out the door and (after a vigorous ten-minute hike to the Hradcanska Metro station) I'm on my way to school; the entire process, start to finish, takes about half an hour. It's perhaps the most comfortable form of travelling ever: never do I have to stand freezing in the cold to spend a small fortune on gas, nor do I have to scrape ice off my windshield (and then off my fingers). It's also one of the most interesting forms of travel: Last night, I took public transportation all the way to the airport for the winter banquet: the Metro from Hradcanska to Dejvicka, and then the bus from Dejvicka to the airport. All along the bus route, I gazed out at the northwestern fringe of Prague - the Ferrari / Maserati dealership, the towering Communist-style apartment buildings, a McDonald's drive-through, and a little Czech countryside.

Any transportation system, of course, has its challenges, and European public transportation is no different. A normal tram sign looks something this:






















The arrows indicate which direction the tram is headed: straight ahead (wherever that goes), or the right-ish. Hopefully, you already know what part of the city is 'straight head thataway'; otherwise, the arrows do you no earthly good. Even harder are the times of arrival: everything is posted in Czech, and so I guess a lot . By "Nedele" there is a little cross, and so I figure it must be Sunday; the whole list starts off with "Pondeli" and so that must be Monday. Get it wrong, and I'll miss a tram or be stuck on the platform for an extra fifteen minutes in below-freezing temperatures.

A few other challenges involve people. First, there are the ticket-checkers, making sure people are actually paying for their rides. Get caught by a ticket-checker without a fare for the train, and you'll be shelling out about $40 in fines. To the uninitiated, the ticket-checkers look like someone to avoid: Periodically, people will hawk magazines and food in the Metro stations, and the ticket-checkers simply blend in with the crowd. My first time being stopped, I simply waved my hand at the man and said "Ne, no." And then, he thrust his official ring in my face, with the Prague public transportation device on it:






A sidelong glance at this device showed a red snake, and I thought perhaps he was from a cult. I made a second attempt to escape. At that point, the checker person finally asked - in English! - for my ticket.

Besides the ticket-checkers, there are also the people on the Metro. Generally, I really like people-watching when I ride the train, but there are some people you need to be cautious of. Prague has a lot of pickpockets, and so I keep a tight grip on my purse or bag whenever I travel. Also, there are people who make out on the train, and there's not much you can do to avoid them. A few nights ago, I found myself stranded next to one of these couples. It started with just a little kiss. And then they had to kiss again. And again, wet little pecks on the lips in full sight of every other traveler in the Mustek station. I'd think that the crowds of people who file through the Metro every day would be enough to stifle these long, drawn-out kissing sessions, but apparently not. Perhaps I should start wearing sunglasses on the Metro.

NOTES ON PRAYER
Tomorrow, we all pick ourselves up from a restful Sunday and start back to school and begin a new unit. Please pray that the unit will go well, that the students will profit both academically and spiritually from their studies. Pray too for the relationships between myself and the students, that it won't simply be a professional one but will be one of love and respect, one where Christ is ever-present. This week, I was excited to tie Psalm 139 into Oedipus Rex (I know, what a connection!) and I'm excited to teach students to find God's truth in the coming weeks, as we start into Lord of the Flies (9th graders), Romantic poetry (10th graders), and Huckleberry Finn (11th graders). Each of these teaches kids something about God, and our relationship with Him; pray that the truth will be evident in every class and in my own life too.

3 comments:

  1. I am in awe of what you are accomplishing. Oh, and K-State has canceled classes today due to ice!
    Carol

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  2. I read your blog, Megan, and feel like I've been to a literature class! The public transportation sounds scary to me.

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  3. I am delighted that one of my former Sunday School students loves literature (starting with the Word) as much as I do. I am so pleased to read about your adventure and see how God is using you to plant seeds in the soil (hopefully fertile) of other young lives. Blessings!

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