Past Perfect Continuous (Subject + “had” + “been + present participle)

I’d been hoping to find my way to Amsterdam ever since I decided to go to Prague. The Netherlands has always fascinated me, probably going back to when I read the abridged version of ‘Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates’ when I was a kid.

The picturesque canals, the amazing bicycle routes and all the funky architecture — it was a magical world that occupied plenty of my youthful imagination. 

The past perfect continuous is a tense that I find difficult to explain its usage. One of its two functions is to indicate an ongoing event, usually with duration, that happened before another event. The other event, the thing that happened more recently, just uses the past tense.

I went to Amsterdam. Simple. Now I’m on my way back to Prague to start my next chapter in life. But the significance of the journey is what deserves the past continuous. 

A trip to the Netherlands had been running through my mind for months prior to my arrival there last Wednesday.

Although my self-confidence is often lacking and has probably held me back from fulfilling my maximum potential, I have to admit that I’ve worked hard and accomplished a fair bit in my life. It’s hard to say that when I currently don’t have a job or own a home, but I certainly have had successes that I can look back on fondly.

I spent my university career rising through the ranks at the student newspaper, becoming a prolific and multi-talented writer which culminated in starting a (briefly) successful magazine.

Then, I almost immediately launched into a career as a small-town sports reporter, broadened my overall creative skillset, and after two years came back home on an upward trajectory in sports media. 

But all this was career or career-adjacent in its focus. I’d taken myself out of my comfort zone repeatedly (okay, with the size of my comfort zone, constantly) but it was always tied to ambition. Buried away inside of me was a desire to challenge myself for pure passion, and travel was the way to do it.

My first trip was inspired by my friend Ji, who I met at my job at SFU last year. Over the summer, I went with him to Korea and Japan, as a smooth introduction to my newfound hobby of discovering the world.

After that, I took it a step further by going on my own to London for two weeks. I was determined to embrace every moment, be outgoing, say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and I… immediately hit a wall.

Deciding to go on a hostel pub crawl my first night, after an overnight plane ride in which I hardly slept, turned out quite poorly. Not even experiencing English pubs, but instead drinking free coloured water ‘shots’ at bland chain bars, I ended the experience finding myself miles away from my hostel at a club, completely alone and with a dead phone at 4 a.m.

Throughout the night I had tried desperately to not get separated from the small group that I had started the night out with, only to slowly have them disappear and be left with all my hopes on having a team to find the way back with, on the shoulders of two young Australian girls. They were ultimately ‘picked up by blokes’ and I was left abandoned.

After I was kept from having a good night’s sleep the following day thanks to a (not so romantic) rendez-vous in the bunk above mine in the middle of the night, I was left feeling hopeless about being able to survive abroad.

Thoughts of someday being able to move overseas were dashed before they had even started.

Although the trip improved from there — I saw some amazing places and fulfilled some lifelong dreams — I lost faith in my chances at being able to connect with others and fully enjoy the experience.

It wasn’t until my last few days, on a trip up to Edinburgh, that I regained some hope. Taking a desperate last shot at socializing with a hostel walking tour, I ended up meeting four extremely nice travellers who were all on their own and we all connected in a way that I hadn’t yet encountered. 

Paige, Beatriz, Sneha and Luna were all incredible people from across the globe and despite us only being together for a couple of days, they really inspired me to have the confidence to not stay in my current situation purely out of comfort.

Luna was from Amsterdam but had spent a year studying in New Orleans, which allowed my brain to click into the possibility of doing the same but in reverse. After coming home, finding myself jobless and looking for a new adventure, I began researching ways in which I could potentially move to Europe.

I eventually came across the Language House in Prague and while I was travelling to Amsterdam, I decided that I was going to try to stay overseas next year and move to the Czech Republic. A few days later, I met up with Luna for an evening in her hometown and felt as if life had come full circle.

Although the exhaustion of solo travelling started to weigh on me at this point in the trip, Amsterdam was an amazing city full of both the expected beauty of the canals and unexpected wonders of the surrounding rural areas. I equally enjoyed the madness of the bicycle stampede in city centre as I did the rustic windmills and captivating wildlife which lay hidden behind my hostel.

Another use of the past perfect continuous is to give the reason, continuing over time, for a past event. I had been looking for a new path in life and I was guided there by Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Prague.

There are still a lot of question marks about what is to come and I have a lot of anxiety about getting a long-term Visa, but I am optimistic about the future and should have a lot of my concerns alleviated soon. My brief solo travels in Europe are complete for the time being, but a new life is just around the corner.

Past perfect simple (subject + had + past participle)

I had just told the story of why I carried a combination wallet-phone case the day before it went missing. In self-deprecation, I explained to a friend that I had a month where I lost credit card three times and then decided to make the switch. 

“But now if you lose it, won’t it be twice as bad?”

I had bragged that it hadn’t happened since and then less than 24 hours later, I was furiously emptying out my bags in the middle of a Berlin Airbnb in a state of utter panic and deep embarrassment. 

Past perfect simple can be used to indicate which of two past actions happened first. This past week, it was a struggle to keep the order of my actions straight.

After finally finishing up my TEFL certification, a group of nine of us decided to celebrate with a trip to Berlin. A few were departing in different directions, but we were delaying those inevitable, pesky emotions for the time being and just focusing on four days of fun.

I left on the early bus with the three others who weren’t taking a round trip back to Prague. Joel was on his way to Portugal and then back to the US afterwards, Megan and Colette were going to Poland, and I was headed west on a trip that I still needed to figure out.

Nathaniel, Alex, Richard, Elan and Bethany were leaving later and joining us there. 

Our bus ride was a pretty standard journey. Other than buying some sandwiches that were labelled as being ‘golf’ flavoured, it wasn’t particularly memorable. I did get a jolt when some armed German border guards got on the bus to check passports and the bag I kept mine in had temporarily slid out of my sight under the seat, but that was just a temporary discomfort. 

At that moment, I remember making a mental note to make sure I checked that I had everything important with me as often as I could. Flashforward to getting off the bus in the outskirts of Berlin and making sure I picked up my wallet-phone that was tucked off to the side next to the window.

And then there’s a gap.

And then there’s me, freaking out at the Airbnb when everyone else is just getting ready to go out to eat and get our Berlin adventure started.

I think I did an okay job of letting it slide for the time being. Colette phoned our Uber driver to see if I left it there and Bethany used her German-speaking skills to call the bus depot. There were no immediate responses and I quickly cancelled my cards while trying to still enjoy myself in this brand new, giant amazing city.

And despite my stress, I did. We took in the sights, experienced German cuisine, had some drinks, had some laughs, took an alternative street art walking tour, went to the Spy Museum and rode down a big slide at a Christmas Market.

Accepting that I would probably just have to slowly replace my phone and all my cards after my friends went back to Prague, I gradually gave up hope. And then out of the blue, there was a message for me on the Language House TEFL facebook group. One of my instructors had been contacted by someone about finding my wallet in Germany.

As I soon came to understand, I had a business card in my wallet from one of the English teaching job schools’ presentations and the person who came across my wallet-phone contacted them and eventually was put in touch with the Language House. 

Over the moon that I wouldn’t have to replace everything in my wallet (which I knew to be a great pain thanks to that one infamous month), I immediately got in touch with them. I was ready to go wherever I need to that instant to get it back. But the wallet wasn’t even in Berlin.

It didn’t take me too long to figure out that the city of Potsdam is very close to Berlin and was probably where the bus station was, but for a second I thought my stuff might have gone on some wild ride across the country and my travels were now going to be determined by some wild adventure across Europe tracking down my dumb wallet-phone.

That’s the other function of past perfect simple, to give the reason for a past event. I had clearly dropped my phone in Potsdam and that’s how it ended up there. Where exactly? I don’t know, but the woman who had my phone left me with one more interesting piece of information after arranging a time and place for me to pick it up at her office (in Potsdam).

According to her text, all the cards were in the wallet but the phone was ‘brokken’. I hoped that this wasn’t just a spelling mistake but also a mistranslation of the word ‘dead’ or ‘out of batteries.

The next day in Potsdam (which is really nice, by the way), however, I discovered a sad sight. 

My phone looked like it had been shot multiple times and left for dead. Pressing the power button, it seemed to have some life in it somewhere, but it was buried too deep for me to communicate with it (or use it to check Facebook).

But I did get my cards back. The hold I put on the credit card lasted too long and it was cancelled. A new one is being delivered to Berlin on Monday. I’ve also replaced my phone with a new cheap one, but so far I haven’t been able to get my SIM card to work. 

During this whole wallet situation, I also dropped my camera off my bed and broke my kit lens. It definitely wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened but still a pain. I replaced it with a better one from a used camera store, but overall this has been quite an expensive few days.

At the end of the day today, I should have everything recovered as I start the next leg of my journey. I’m headed to Hannover today, where I’ll stay for a few days and then go to Amsterdam. I’ll be keeping my wallet-phone close.

Present Perfect Continuous (Subject + “have/has” + “been” + present participle)

I’ve been trying to decide what I want to do next. That’s the present perfect continuous — an ongoing activity that started in the past and continues into the present time and perhaps beyond.

When did this activity start? The idea of not knowing what to do next? I’d guess shortly after the time I was born. Is it still going on in the present moment? Yes. Will it be ongoing in the future? Only time will tell, but yes.

Last Friday, I finished my Teaching English as a Foreign Language course with the Language House Prague. I now have a TEFL certificate and could start applying for teaching jobs. But I’m not sure if I want to stay in Prague. 

My plan has always been to travel for awhile after the course and see where I might want to live. Now I’m not sure again. 

When I initially signed up for the course, I hoped that I would make some meaningful connections but I honestly went in keeping my expectations low. After four weeks, however, I look back and can’t believe how many amazing people I’ve met and how many great friends I’ve made.

I always felt as though I missed out on something by not moving away to university and living in dorms when I was 18. Like a piece of my adult development was missing. I think I made up for it in just a single month at Kubelikova 32. My three roommates and the five girls who lived two floors down from us made it a truly wonderful experience. Despite being so far away from home and often under enormous stress, I never felt alone.

Someone from Kubelikova was always there to talk to, I could rely on all of them for help at any time, and there was just always so much laughter.

Now, some of them are staying in Prague and some are leaving. I’m not sure which side I want to be on. A secret dream of mine when heading to Europe was to try to find a way to get involved with a hockey team as a photographer or potentially an English communicator or writer. I don’t think that sort of opportunity would be easy to find in Prague. There are too many people and the teams are massive businesses.

But Prague now has a strong base of connections for me, a network of Language House alumni and I do truly love the city. I also had a lot of fun with different parts of teaching. Making lesson plans was gruelling at times but also provided me with great joy when I came up with a great introduction or activity. I wasn’t always fond of being observed and critiqued, but interacting with Czech students and feeling like you really made a connection or taught them something was an experience like no other.

I have the training to be an English teacher and I feel like I should at least try it for awhile to see what it’s like in the real world. And where better to do it then Prague?

The visa process will be a pain, but the rent is way cheaper than Vancouver. I’ll miss my family and friends back home, but I’ll surely make a lot of new and exciting friendships. I don’t know if I want to be an English teacher, but I don’t know a lot about what I want to do, so why not give it a shot for the moment?

As I wrestle with the decision of whether to return to Prague or move on, I can’t help but think about some of the low points of my past month. Like on the Thursday after teaching my last group lesson, when I felt the need to release some energy and go running without a plan and (more importantly without a phone).

Trusting myself to somehow figure out a perfect circular route back to my apartment building in an unfamiliar city with old winding roads — after sprinting a few kilometres in a direction I had never explored — turned out about as well as you would imagine. Completely lost in a part of town that I had never seen before, I felt terrified.

Throughout my entire trip, I had relied upon the Zizkov TV Tower (or “the baby tower”) to get me back to our residence. Standing right outside of my window, it served as a northern light, but on this particular run, I had somehow travelled far enough downhill that it disappeared.

Speed wandering the backstreets of Prague, I almost gave up hope before I caught its red and blue lights in the horizon. At that moment I felt back on top. But the excitement wasn’t about being saved from the cold or getting back to my stuff or my precious phone with GPS. I was happy because at that moment I knew I had a home nearby.

I moved out of Kubelikova last week and the baby tower no longer signals where I necessarily need to return. But if I’m ever lost and need some direction, wherever I might be, I’ll just imagine it and know that I do have another home out there, however scattered across the world it might be.

Right now, I’m in Berlin with some friends from the course. Then I might head west over to the Netherlands and France. Maybe then I’ll go back to Prague. I’m getting okay with being lost. I’ve been finding my way for a long time.

Present perfect simple (subject + have/has + past participle)

October 27, 2019

I haven’t had much time to process this past week, to be perfectly honest. It’s been intense, to say the least.

I’ve already passed my grammar test, but nevertheless I’m rolling on with this theme because just like present perfect simple, time may pass but it’s never truly complete. Oh, and grammar is still important too, I guess.

One of the functions of the present perfect is to describe actions in the past taking place in an unfinished time period. I’ve taught three English lessons so far in Prague, but am only halfway through my course. I still have six more classes to teach, a one-on-one lesson to organize and a variety of other homework assignments and workshops to attend.

Teaching new English learners has been quite a bit of fun so far, even though there are plenty of challenges and frustrations. So far, I’ve taught three 45-minute lessons. One covered a vocabulary selection of my choice, another was an assigned grammar point and the third was a listening class. 

With each lesson, I put a lot of effort into engaging introductions, which I enjoyed but am also slightly regretting. For my lesson on birthday celebration lexis, I pretended it was one of the student’s birthdays and gave out party supplies and then presented them with a cake. When I taught a listening lesson on the rules of soccer, I dressed as a referee, tossed a ball to one of the students and then pulled out a yellow card on them for a hand ball.

It was fun but I don’t think I can afford to spend money on props every lesson.

The lesson focusing on grammar was by far the most difficult. I was assigned the zero conditional which is a tense that native speakers rarely if ever use in everyday speech. I was supposed to create a lesson that, by the end, would have them using zero conditional naturally which seemed like an impossible task.

To make matters worse, within a minute of starting my lesson, my observer informed me and the rest of the class that I had written on the whiteboard in a permanent marker. ‘I’ve made a huge mistake’ was my thought after that immediate past action. Wearing a beret that I constructed out of paper for my ‘art’ theme, I felt pretty embarrassed.

The rest of the lesson felt like a disaster. I forgot a lot of the steps I had been taught and had to backtrack, but by the end, they were actually using the zero conditional without my help. They said really weird sentences like ‘when I see that painting, I buy it’ but overall my lesson actually worked, and afterward my teaching observer said that zero conditional using the method were being taught (including a theme and everything) would probably never be something I actually did in the real world.

After my final A2 lesson, we were given feedback cards filled out by the students. I had three 10/10s and one 9/10. One of the 10/10 slip’s only comment was ‘Ok’. Apparently that’s a Czech term of endearment.

I’ve made it through half the course and I’m not sure how I’ll be able to keep going. That’s an action in the past, where the emphasis is on the action’s effect on the present time. I’m afraid that I may have lost my spark, but am hopeful that it’s just a blip and by the end of the day I’ll be excited about a new lesson plan. I teach a slightly more advanced group (B1) this week and have already been assigned my first lesson topic.

I’m still not sure if teaching is really for me. Well, I think I’ve actually always been sure that teaching isn’t my goal in life. But could I do it for awhile as a means to make money while I pursue my writing and artistic ambitions? Am I good enough and can I tolerate it? 

I can’t think about that now. All I need to focus on is that I’ve taught three English lessons in the Czech Republic and they went well. Those are now my life experiences and just little pieces of my past, which is taking place in an unfinished time period with unlimited potential.


Past Continuous [Subject + “To be” (in past simple form) + present participle]

Friday, October 18, 2019

This time last year I was just starting a new job, but in a familiar place. In a lot of ways, I was going back to a previous life — going up to my old university, living at home — which I had never expected to do. 

Those are few examples of the past continuous, a tense used to describe events that were in progress at a specific time in the past. My present situation is quite a bit different. While my latest step doesn’t have the benefits included in my move to a communications role within the Simon Fraser University Athletics department (namely, more money and a step up on the career ladder), it has something much more valuable: freedom.

Now, I’m not talking about being able to do whatever I want, when I want. I just finished my first week of training to become a certified English as a Foreign Language instructor and I have been insanely busy and that will only pick up from here. No, it’s the freedom to look at the world without just trying to hustle to a goal.

I’m just learning and accepting that I’m not perfect. I’m not upset to see other classmates succeed because we’re all on the same team. In the teaching world, there’s no upper echelon that I want to reach. I am simply curious about everything and want to do the best that I can.

So far, it’s been a very interesting experience at The Language House in Prague. Another situation in which we use the past continuous is for when there are two events in progress at the same (past) time. So far, I’ve done a lot of multi-tasking. In addition to learning the basics of teaching, we’re immersed in a number of classes and practicing in the field already.

On Thursday, I both experienced being a beginner language learner with a Czech-only lesson on the basics of the Czech language and later instructed an icebreaker with some local A2 level students.

Trying to learn Czech was an eye-opener. I’ve dabbled in other languages in my life and have a pretty good grasp on French thanks to my early Canadian schooling experience, but the speed and sheer volume of vocabulary that we learned… it was intense. It was a lot of fun though as well and really made me appreciate how lost my future students will be at times because I definitely felt completely out of it multiple times.

The icebreaker turned out to be a strange experience as well. The third function of the past continuous tense is to describe ongoing past action interrupted by another event. Well, for my activity, I had planned for 10 or 11 students. When there were only two, I was pretty thrown. My opening activity for the class was to come in talking on a banana as if it were a phone and act like the person on the other end wanted the answers to a series of personal questions from the students

I had to add some more questions on the fly to make up for only having two of them, but I was happy that they were willing to go along with my silly game and that I was able to elicit some English from them. They seemed to have quite a bit of fun pretending the banana was a real phone as well.

Tomorrow is a day off but I’m taking an optional grammar test and if I pass it, I won’t have to worry about it at the end of the course. We also start teaching 45-minute lessons on Monday, which I’m actually sort of excited for. It’ll be a lot of work but it should be worth it for sure (that sentence uses future simple with will [subject + will + bare infinitive] and present simple [subject + present simple form] with the modal verb ‘should’ which adds the mood of advice to the main verb “to be”… okay, I think I’m ready for this test).

Past Simple [Subject + Past Simple Form]

Orientation weekend was a lot of fun.

It’s hard to be too introspective or share deep thoughts using the past simple tense. Past simple is used to describe completed actions in the past, usually linked to a specific point in time

I don’t think it’s a tense that I use regularly. I seem to prefer to use the present simple or using the present continuous (see?). I guess it’s because I’m a pretty sentimental person. When I find myself in an enjoyable situation, I never want it to end and I’ll always look back on it hoping that it will come back again.

I even feel a little upset after getting out of a traffic jam and going my separate way from the car that I was stuck behind for an hour.

But it’s probably healthy for me to think of some memories in the past simple. Just accept that something was a great experience and helped me grow, but it happened and now it’s over. Plain and simple.

That’s the attitude I need for this past orientation weekend, so that I can focus on my course. Today was the first day of classes and I can tell that I’ll be very busy for the next month. So, let me just use this one opportunity to remember my introduction to Prague.

The highlight of Saturday was a walking history tour of the city which ended at a really cool pub that has been around since 1375 called U krále Brabantského. Apparently, famous past guests have included everyone from Mozart to Einstein.

I had a duck meal with some delicious dumplings and a couple of Pilsner beers. Our table was way down in the basement where the walls and ceiling are lined with skulls. For entertainment, there were a few dancers who performed progressively more dangerous routines, starting with ribbons, advancing to swordplay and fire torches, and ending the night with a firebreather.

On Sunday, our orientation ended with beer tasting at a place called the Beer Museum. It was very different to what we have at home. Instead of small samplers, they were full glasses that came fast and furious. Our table of four was also given five of each, so needless to say a good time was had by all.

So far, I’ve met a lot of really nice and interesting people from across the United States (and a couple from Canada, Hong Kong and the UK as well).

I’m pretty tired now though, so time to put the past simple (and myself) to bed. What’s done is done, and I’m excited for the next chapter.

2019 TRAVEL: Present Continuous [Subject + “to be” (in present simple form) + present participle]

Thursday, October 10, 2019

I’m lying in bed. I’m trying not to think too much.

This is the present continuous, what’s happening right now.

I’ve been in Prague for two days now and it’s already been quite the experience. My flight was pretty uneventful though. I had a whole row to myself from Vancouver to Frankfurt which was nice, and I set the high score on my seat’s inflight quiz game. 

That was actually probably the most stressful part of the journey. We were landing as I was in the middle of my best performance of the trip and was nervous that the messages from the cabin crew would mess things up or that I would have to get off the plane before I could type my name into Air Canada Trivia Tournament glory.

Luckily, Brad: 164045 made it into the annals of history and after a quick transfer, I was touching down in the beautiful city of Prague.

The apartment that I’m staying in (that’s a temporary situation) is pretty nice for being in a building that was apparently slated for demolition this month. I’m sharing a flat with four other guys around my age, with one also sharing my room. The place has a fridge, oven, washing machine, everything you would need.

Sure, I locked myself out for a half-hour within a few minutes of arriving because the lock is weird. And the power went out in the middle of the night yesterday. And the light switch in our room broke and we had to unscrew the bulb to get some sleep, but that’s all part of the experience.

I’m just trying not to think too much. Be like the present continuous and live in the moment. Don’t dwell on the past or think about the future, this is the here and now, and it truly is amazing.

I’m trying very hard to avoid my annoying habit of worrying incessantly. I spent a good chunk of my first day concerned about meeting people and making good first impressions. Today I attended my first informal class session where I met two of my flatmates and a few others. They were all very nice and I despite my anxiety, I managed to make conversation and join in with the group.

After a ‘Grammar Bootcamp’ session, I joined a few others for a beer tasting session and explored Prague a bit. It’s a really beautiful city and I’m excited to see more of it in the coming weeks. Seems like a cool place that’s up on the latest trends (sorry, wasn’t sure how to work that situation example in).

I have future plans with arrangements. Tomorrow is a day off, but then Saturday is orientation and from there the course will get going and I’m sure I’ll be extremely busy. It’s going to be intense and there’s a lot I could worry about but I’ll keep things in this tense. It’s exciting.

2019 TRAVEL: Present simple [subject + present simple form]

Monday, October 7, 2019

My flight leaves at 1:30 pm tomorrow. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m trying to write every sentence of this post in the present simple. Oops, that didn’t last long.

Okay, let me explain. I’m about to start a new adventure, traveling to Prague in the Czech Republic to take a four-week course on how to teach English as a foreign language. In preparation, it was recommended that we brush up on our English grammar skills. So over the past few weeks, I’ve been furiously trying to comprehend what I normally do without thinking. 

To get a better grasp on it, I thought it might be helpful to start a travel blog and frame my experience around the grammar points that I need to master.

As it turns out, the present simple isn’t all that simple. The online training listed five separate situations in which we use it and none of them are what’s happening right now.

The first is permanent situations and part of the reason I’m going to Prague is that I find myself lacking in that area right now. For the first time since I was in high school, I don’t have a job. After spending most of my adult life consumed by my professional development, last year I decided that I wanted to focus on other areas of my life.

At my most recent job, I still worked hard but tried not to be too obsessive about it and take some time to explore other interests. Trying new things, making friends, traveling… I was attempting to have my career only be a part of my identity.

And then I lost my job. I wasn’t fired and there is no possible way that they could legitimately say that I wasn’t doing good work, but in August my contract wasn’t renewed. The way that it all went down was upsetting, to say the least.

Frightened at the prospect of not having a steady paycheck and purpose in life, I immediately set out to find a new job. That’s another situation in which we use the present simple, for routines and habits, and for a long time I’ve set my life worth solely on being able to say: I have a job.

It didn’t matter that I was often unhappy at my last job, surrounded by negativity and toxic attitudes — I just wanted people to see that I was doing something with my life. I was following what I thought you had to do. Rules or laws of life. You go to school, get a job, climb that career ladder, buy a house etc. etc.

But another situation for the present simple is state verbs. State verbs aren’t actions but states of being. In my own present, simple life, I’ve realized that I don’t need to be so focused on my actions, my accomplishments. I need to find happiness that doesn’t rely on pointing to a career. I need to just be.

So I put a pause on my job search.

Teaching English doesn’t have anything to do with my current career aspirations. It isn’t a step towards a higher paying gig. It’s just a potential avenue for adventure, a chance to meet new interesting people and maybe get a clearer idea of what truly makes me feel content.

The fifth situation in which we use the present simple is for the future with a timetable. There isn’t a specific date on a calendar when I’m guaranteed to be fulfilled in life, but I do know that my flight leaves at 1:30 pm tomorrow.

How Americans Feel About the Presidential Election According to the Guestbook of an Exhibit on Nazi Propaganda


Almost two weeks ago I left my peaceful home in Vancouver, BC, Canada to embark on a month-long road trip across the United States of America. Like most people I know, I’ve been utterly fascinated with the upcoming US presidential election, and I was sure that the timing of my trip would allow me to witness just how divided and politically charged up the country really was.

From the coverage I had been seeing on social media and 24-hour news channels, I was sure that politics would be all anyone was talking about down there. I couldn’t wait to see Trump supporters in the flesh — finally witness the sea of “Make America Great Again” hats and “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts of this unbelievably loud and disenfranchised group of Americans I had heard so much about.

I was sure that within no time at all I would get a real grasp on how most Americans were really feeling about this crazy election.

So what have I found out? Not much at all.

In almost 13 days in the United States, I’ve seen very little to suggest that anything is even going on. Sure, every time I’ve driven 50 miles away from a big city I’ve seen some homemade “Trump 2016” signs but these are at the same residences that already had a collection of confederate flags, so I take their influence with a grain of salt. And, yes when I turn on AM radio, there is an abundance of non-stop talk about Clinton and Trump, but out in public I’ve heard less American political talk then I do up in Canada.

Trump Supporter Signs

These are real signs on a house I passed by somewhere in southeastern Washington.

At every single restaurant, every park, every beach, from Washington to Arizona, I haven’t overheard even a whisper about “Donald” or “Hillary” or “a wall” or “a temporary ban” or “e-mail servers”… none of it.

So far, I really haven’t been able to get a sense of the climate of the American people towards this election in the way I expected I would. I mean, I first saw all the PokemonGo stories online and thought they might have been exaggerated, but when I went outside I actually saw the mayhem for myself. I can’t say the same thing about the presidential election.

There’s only one place that I’ve managed to bear witness to any true discussion of the election from regular Americans. So right now, my entire basis for average Americans feelings on Trump vs. Hillary is derived from the guestbook of an exhibit entitled “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda” that I visited at the Los Angeles Central Public Library. The book said “Your Comments are Appreciated” and boy did visitors vent their, from what I have observed, pent-up political thoughts.


This is the entrance to the exhibit on Nazi Propaganda at the LA Central Library.

Thanks to this guestbook, here is what I now know about what Americans think about the current state of this election and politics in general:

Donald Trump is using propaganda in a similar manner to the Nazis


“Trump’s playbook! Excellent expose, very relevant to what’s happening in the USA today”

But Hillary Clinton is also reminiscent of the Nazis


“This reminds me of Hillary too!”

Fox News, MSNBC and CNN are also bad like Nazis


“Fox News! MSNBC! CNN!”

Trump = Hitler


Hitler = Trump


People really don’t like Trump


“Yes words kill. Donald Trump reminds me of Hitler.”

People are scared by Trump


“Similar things have been said by Donald Trump …. scary.”

Hillary RUINED Libya 2011


NATO is bad


One person is voting for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson


Obama is also like Hitler


“Funny how the ‘HITLER’ poster looked similar to the ‘OBAMA’ poster from 2008”

Everyone is playing PokemonGo


“Yolo I found a pikachu here”

As you can see, I haven’t really learned anything new about average Americans feelings towards the election. This is really just the pen and paper version of an online comment thread you might see on a post by CNN’s Facebook page. Still, it’s nice to see that some people still get out of the house to engage in flame wars.

I hope I’ll learn more about the election in my remaining time here. I’m headed to Texas soon and something tells me people there might be a little less shy about voicing their opinions.


Full disclosure, I actually have seen one “Make America Great Again” hat. Just one though. It was being worn by an old white man (surprise!) sitting on a bench at Venice Beach, and he was being engaged in what looked like a civilized debate with a black man (on the part of the black guy, I don’t think the ‘great’ hat guy was saying anything).

Also, the LA Library had a great promotional poster to get people to read featuring actor John Leguizamo.


That book can’t really have been in the original picture, right?

For some reason though, it seems like they had to photoshop the book into the picture.

I might write about this trip again if I find some more free time. Thanks for reading!