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

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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.

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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

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

But Hillary Clinton is also reminiscent of the Nazis

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“This reminds me of Hillary too!”

Fox News, MSNBC and CNN are also bad like Nazis

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“Fox News! MSNBC! CNN!”

Trump = Hitler

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Hitler = Trump

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People really don’t like Trump

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

People are scared by Trump

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

Hillary RUINED Libya 2011

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NATO is bad

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One person is voting for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson

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Obama is also like Hitler

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

Everyone is playing PokemonGo

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“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.

Also

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.

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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!

5 Things You Didn’t Know About New Canuck Erik Gudbranson

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He hasn’t even set foot in the city yet, but Vancouver Canucks fans already seem to know a lot about Erik Gudbranson. Gudbranson, 24, was traded on May 25, in exchange for Canucks  prospect, Jared McCann, and two draft picks. While many Canucks fans already ‘know’ that their new 6’5″ defenseman’s advanced statistics prove that he was a poor acquisition for the team, there’s a lot more to him than just his ‘possession-metric’. Here are some things you probably haven’t heard about the newest Canuck.

 

1. He was a promising youth soccer goalkeeper before quitting to focus on hockey

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Although Gudbranson was quickly recognized as a special hockey player, it wasn’t the only sport  in which he excelled. According to The Ottawa Citizen in 2008,  giving up soccer was one of his biggest decisions prior to being drafted into the OHL, as he “was one of the outstanding goalkeepers in the region,” playing for Capital United and Cumberland in the Orleans, Ontario area, where he grew up. He busted out his soccer talents recently however, while he was volunteering this summer in Africa.

 

2. His dad is the CEO of a big tech company

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Erik isn’t the only Gudbranson whose made a name for himself. His father may not be a famous hockey player, but he certainly is notable in the tech industry. Wayne Gudbranson is the CEO of the Branham Group which is “a leading Industry Analyst and Strategic Advisory company servicing the global Information and Communication Technology (ICT) marketplace.” According to his LinkedIn, he has A LOT of skills, although his twitter shows that he also has a lot of free time to follow his son’s hockey career.

 

3. He was the second ever Canadian player drafted by a KHL team

26.05.13. Драфт юниоров КХЛ 2013. |26.05.13. Draft KHL 2013.

Before he was even drafted into the NHL,  Gudbranson was selected in the first entry draft for the new Kontinental Hockey League in 2009. The Russian teams didn’t take a chance on too many North Americans, but Dynamo Moscow drafted a pair of top Canadian prospects in the third round with Gudbranson going 62nd overall. The first Canadian KHL draft pick? Former Canucks winger Zack Kassian, who went 56th.

 

4. His sister plays defense for the Ottawa (Lady) Senators

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Gudbranson isn’t the only hockey player in the family. All four Gudbranson kids played hockey growing up and Chantal, the youngest at 16, just finished her first season with the PWHL Ottawa Lady Senators picking up 5 points in 37 games. His brother Alex, 21, is currently a part of the Minnesota Wild franchise, having played last season with their ECHL affiliate, the Quad City Mallards. His younger brother, Dennis, also played rep hockey and is a story in his own right, having overcome Leukemia as a child. According to The Ottawa Citizen in 2010, raising four competitive hockey players under the same roof was no easy task for Gudbranson’s parents. The family’s garage doors, used by Erik and co. for shooting practice, apparently made “Sidney Crosby’s famous childhood dryer look pristine.”

 

5.  He’s won three championship medals in his career

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While Gudbranson’s junior team, the Kingston Frontenacs, didn’t advance past the first round of the OHL playoffs while he was there, and this past season was his first trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Panthers, he’s won a couple of big international prizes. He captained Team Ontario at the World U17 Hockey Challenge to a gold medal in 2009, and was also a member of Team Canada at the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament that won gold that same year.

His third medal is the only one he won in minor hockey, in his very first year of competitive hockey: a 1999 Gloucester Minor Hockey Association Championship with the Blackburn Novice ‘B’ Stingers. Gudbranson told the Orleans Star in 2010 that “it’s an important medal” and that the game was his first taste of a packed crowd and a very exciting moment. He’s sure to get a few more of those moments in Vancouver (the big crowds, not the championships) if he sticks around.