April 15, 2006

Education in the Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, we have a very archaic educational system. It is absolutely based on learning facts - we learn dates of important battles, names and books of famous writers, typical signs of various art and architectural styles, hierarchy of plants and animals, area, capital city and number of inhabitants of different countries or chemical formulas. All these things we must carry in our memory - we are tested in it. Unfortunately, this system is used in basic schools, grammar schools and even in universities.

I absolutely refuse this system of learning - all these things can be found very easily in libraries or on the internet, there is just a small reason why it is good to carry them in the head: you have a better overview of the world (I am happy for it, but the effort to get it is too big). Moreover: in present-day world, we simply can't even touch the whole knowledge of all people in such a short time: e.g. in chemistry, physics and other technical subjects. The knowledge here is so advanced that we know almost nothing after graduating the grammar school.

I think we should more focus on abilities, that are really important in our world:
  • presentation,
  • communication,
  • discussion,
  • working with information (searching, writing),
  • teamwork.
Another aspect is that by doing these activities you learn much more than by just learning facts.

I envy when on of our teachers, which is American, talks about American educational system and one of the basic principles of it: that the teacher should talk for just a minority of time in a lesson and he should empower the discussion. Oh my god, I would love this!

In international competitions, Czech students always win in theoretical knowledge (or they are on the first places). But when it comes to communication, discussion in the team or presentation in front of many people, Czech students and people are very bad (I see it often in the work). I don't think we should stop learning and just talk in the school, but i think we should find a compromise. Otherwise, we will lag.

Czech language is our prison?!

I work as a consultant for creating websites that have profit, that return investments put in it. I have to figure out many disciplines of web design - usability, search engine optimization, information architecture, marketing, accessibility and so on. But this is not the thing I want to write about.

Last month one of my friends from Czech web design community went to USA. Among other events he visited SXSWi, an American web design conference, where he met a lot of leaders in international web design community (mainly American and Australian inhabitants). These people are very famous, visit conferences around the world and all people from the world that create websites know them. And I figured out a fascinating fact: they have usually similar abilities, qualification, knowledge and experience as we do. I think Czech language is our problem - even if we all know and use English, we will never be able to use it so well as a native speaker and so there will always be a big barrier between us and internation clients, international webdesign community. And this is the reason why we can't become so famous in the global scale as Americans can. That's a pitty.

In last week we (with Iva) were in Ireland and we had a long discussion if it was good for Ireland to lose its native language (Irish), which is today still sometimes used, but English definitely dominates. I think it was a big win for Ireland, but Iva thinks that the country lost also a significant part of its culture and doesn't see it so positively - what do you think?

March 15, 2006

Panel houses

Panel houses (prefabs) are a very common type of living in the Czech Republic. They are made of big concrete panels, they have about ten storeys and usually many entries - one prefab contains in fact more prefabs, each with its own address and entry.

Prefabs were built at the communist times, because there was (and today still is) a big lack of flats and houses. Many prefabs were built in one place and so big housing estates in the suburbs were created. But prefabs are not very comfortable type of living:
  • They have very small kitchens and bathrooms.
  • There are just few windows in the prefab flat, because the prefabs are very big and contain a lot of flats.
  • In the winter, it is very hot there, because people in all the flats heat very much and the prefab behaves like a big oven. Similar situation dawns in the summer, when the sun heats the prefabs.
  • The panels don't keep sound very good, so you often hear, what your neighbour talks about.
  • The surrounding of the prefabs is usually terrible - there are few parks, few green areas, everything looks old and dirty, there are very few cultural opportunities (even in Prague, for the culture you usually have to go the centre of the city). You just see big concrete monsters everywhere.
A big problem of the prefab housing estates is, that people in fact don't live there - in the morning they go to work to the centre, then they shop there, go to a cinema and come back to the housing estate in the evening. They just sleep in the prefab, nothing more.

What to do with the prefabs? I don't know, because in the Czech Republic they are the only chance for many people - they can't afford any other (better) type of living. And so, the prefabs will stay with us until the level of living improves and until the developers build better and more affordable houses.

March 08, 2006

I love yoga

I started exercise yoga when I was 15 years old. I have never been interested in collective sports like aerobic. I always felt awkwardly after I found courage to enter aerobic lesson. I wasn't able to learn steps and configurations. Always I ended these lessons like knocked person. And that is verbatim, because another women could learn the stupid steps and I was able only to bump them and fell down. I felt realy embarrassed.

But then I discovered yoga. When I was on my firts lesson of yoga I was surprised how many differences are between two exercises:
  • on aerobic lesson you can find out only women, on yoga lesson you will see even men
  • on aerobic you see only younger women, on yoga you can meet all ages
  • on yoga doesn't metter what you wear, you can have an old T-shirt and nobody looks at you badly
  • you feel free
  • there are only simple positions which you learn after one lesson
  • you exercise not only your body but also your mind and concentration
  • you become more calm, relaxed and you rest from stress really deeply
  • yoga is great exercise for all your body and mind, stretchs all your muscle and support better holding your back
  • you can do yoga even you are very ill
  • all the people who attend regularly yoga lessons are more friendship, powerful, balanced and empathetic, they want to live, to help, to love and that's great...
  • there are many others reasons why to do yoga, but I don't remember them all :-) (you can write me them)
Yoga has changed my life, many my opinions and showed me another way how to be better person. I enjoy better each day and I am more healthy.

Write me what you think, even if you don't have the same opinion.

February 19, 2006

The film Hostel

Yesterday I watched Hostel, a film presented by my favourite film maker Quentin Tarrantino. I expected something as good as Sin City, Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction, but Hostel really disappointed me.

If you don't know what Hostel is: it is about three young men (two of them Americans) who come to Slovakia, they get to know some girls there, then they are caught by some deviant people who torture them in an abandoned factory - only one of them survives. The whole film has a bit of horror atmosphere.

The film was created in the Czech Republic (where I live), exactly in Český Krumlov and Prague. For example the torture scenes come from Bohnice, a well-know madhouse in Prague (it is spectacular, I admit). The film's story occurs in Slovakia - it is our border country and further we were one country (Czechoslovakia), so we have much in common.

In my opinion, the biggest problem of the film is that it shows Slovakia and Europe in a way that is very far from reality. Corrupted policemen, groups of gipsys that steal everything and, especially, the cars - only old black Tatras and Volhas for the rich, and old Škodas and Žiguls for the poor, that's truly unreal. This is a picture of Romania or a country in Africa, not Slovakia. Slovakia is a normal country with a normal police, human rights, tourism, BMWs, Fiat and other normal car brands.

I am not nationalist and I think other people see us in a way that we present ourselves, so this is the way the Americans see us. I don't mind, I think nothing bad is in it, but - from a Tarrantino's film, I would expect deeper thoughts, less superficial view and much better description of the reality.

February 08, 2006

Freedom in the Czech Republic

Czech Republic is a very free country. I think far more free than the USA - my opinion is that in this country everybody talks about freedom, but the practice is different. In the Czech Republic:
  • You can smoke a joint almost everywhere you want. There is no strong repression against it, you don't have to be afraid that the cops will treat you like a criminal. Moreover, according to a research 50 % of Czechs have already tried marihuana in their lives. And I can say, based on my experience, that marihuana is very popular in our country. Even some very well-known people in Czech agree with it in public.
  • You can drink alcohol in teenage. Officialy, it is allowed from 18, but nobody cares. And so, we all have experience with alcohol since, say 15 - you can try it since the time when your parents let you go to a pub.
  • If you get drunk at 15, it is not a reason why the society should damn you. Most of the people know that it is a normal thing at this age. They rather laugh, they know you won't become an alcoholic because of it - they don't "solve it over".
  • We can drink Absinth, a very strong alcohol, which is forbidden in many countries.
  • We don't have any purists that dictate you what you should think and which scenes of a film can get to the TV or cinema.
  • We can wear any swimming trunks/swimsuit that we want. The "pants model" is not forbidden.
  • We can go to a balcony just in underwear. We can be sure that the neighbour won't call for police because we "endanger his children's morality".
  • Producers of microwave ovens in our country don't have to write to the instructions for the final user that cats shouldn't be dried in the oven. We all just know it, we are normal and we don't take them to the court for it.
These are some of the reasons why I like to live in the Czech Republic. We are not the richest country and not everything functions here as I would wish, but our country is free and there are no purists to persecute you.

February 06, 2006

Hunt for sales

I worked as a salesgirl in two big supermarkets to make some pocket money. I have been working there for more than 3 years (as a student there aren't many possibility how to earn some money). And I really hated Saturday mornings.

These days supermarkets offered discount for some goods (for your imagination a small example: a pound of chicken meat usual costs 129 crowns and with discount it's 109 crowns). Discounts are a standard way how to get more customers and it's normal all over the world. So why I hated these mornings?
  • The typical customer who buys goods in sale is pensioner. This is the only one and basic information.
  • These pensioners wake up very early. So they stand a half an hour before opening hour in front of the supermarkets.
  • We have many pensioners who wake up very early. So there is a huge queue in front of the entrance door to supermarket.
  • The pensioners queue there with their baskets, crates, bags and so on. And they're very nervous and restless when it's 8 o'clock and 1 minute and the entrace door is still closed.
  • They're are usually ill, they move very bad and slow. But after the entrance door in opened you see a big race. Everybody is going as fast as possible, somebody is running and many people shout and scream. It's really ridiculous to watch theese old people what they do to get cheaper meat.
  • They are more nervous and restless in the shop. I can say they're aggressive because they want their cheaper chicken.
  • These retirees buy everything what is in sale, even if they don't need it. But it's cheaper than usually so why not buy it.
  • It's a big hobby of Czech pensioners. They are capable to visit three or more supermarkets to get in one cheaper bread, in the next one cheaper apples and in the other one cheaper toothbrush.
  • The first topic between two pensioners is illness, the second sales in shops.
  • I had to serve these hunting retirees!
Do you see the reason why I hate theese mornings now? I hope so... :-)

There are many of normal pensioners in the Czech Republic but don't look for them at 8 o'clock in the morming in front of the supermarkets.