Zero Conditional (“If/When” + present … present)

***The following blog post deals with an ongoing news event and is subject to rapid changes. I won’t be updating it as the situation evolves though, who do you think I am?***

When a global pandemic breaks out during your intended year of self-discovery and adventure, it changes everything.

Zero conditional sentences are used to state laws, rules, and things that are always true. While the coronavirus has caused a lot of panic and confusion in my life and what decisions I need to make, the response by the government and businesses in the Czech Republic have been firm.

If there’s any risk of an activity spreading the virus, it’s cancelled. Zero chance that everything is continuing as normal. After my teaching shift on Monday, there was a text message from my language school stating that all classes were cancelled for the rest of the week. By the next day, schools had been shut down across the country. 

Since then, steps have been taken to declare a national state of emergency, ban gatherings of over 30 people, shut down restaurants after 8pm and restrict travel. The switch from just worrying that I wasn’t going to be able to make enough money living here, to essentially having no work and close to zero prospect of making any money, has been quite the shock.

And yet, at the same time, modifying my plans based on strict rules completely out of my control has actually been somewhat soothing. Unless the situation drastically changes and I am suddenly offered a bunch of great, well-paying jobs, I’ve resolved to move back to Vancouver in April. 

Based on a lot of factors, with money at the top of the list, I’ve been contemplating a return for a while anyway and this feels like a sign. Or maybe, it’s an excuse. Either way, replacing the anxiety of hypotheticals for the future with decisions based on rigid, monolithic truths feels comforting.

I may bemoan in a month or two in the third conditional that ‘if I had known it would only have lasted x number of weeks, I would have survived’, but I have to live in the present and react without unnecessary rumination. 

If I don’t have enough money, I leave. That’s my motto right now. Zero conditional. I could leave tomorrow and be proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve made friends, gotten jobs (while under normal circumstances), taken a lot of great photos, had tons of fun, but Prague was never intended to be my life. I still don’t know what the intention for my life is, but every step has a purpose and while transitions aren’t easy, I have to trust that I’m better off for everything I’ve experienced here.

Even as I write, notifications are flooding in from news services with the latest changes. Slovakia temporarily closed off their borders last hour, and now the Czech Republic has stopped international trains and buses. I feel like I’m living in the opening montage of a zombie movie.

Characters in my life are already being killed off. It’s only been a week since the schools closed and already two of my closest friends from my course are on their way back to the United States. 

Others are fervent about staying and seeing this through, while some seem to change their plan every few minutes along with the news updates. I’m still keen to not make any rash decisions, stay here until sometime in April, hopefully still have my parents come visit, and experience my birthday here. 

Despite the stress, I feel lighter (and not just in the wallet). I want to focus on just enjoying my remaining time here and although I won’t be able to travel much or possibly even leave my room if things get too bad, I want to just soak in the rest of my time with these friends and the beautiful architecture.

If I focus on the positives, this time doesn’t have to be sad.

Adjective order (opinion, size, age, shape, colour, material, purpose)

February 20, 2020 

There are some very important, major, fundamental rules that we are never taught. Some things are just innately understood — like curiosity, love, survival and — apparently — the order in which we place our adjectives.

Now, I’m the first to admit that my formal English education is severely lacking. I was in a French Immersion program starting in kindergarten so while I learned passé composé every year (seriously, every year) until I graduated high school, I didn’t have a single grammar lesson in my native language.

And yet, I still did really well in school on writing assignments, and probably wouldn’t have a university degree if it weren’t for my ability to string words together in English. Just by reading and practising consistently, it all just sort of came into shape. 

Only a few things blew my mind when I started learning how to teach English as a foreign language. And the fact that there is a rule to how we order our goddamn, little, old adjectives was by far the one that got me the most.

So far with these blog posts, I’ve been trying to weave a narrative between my experience abroad and my inner challenges using grammar rules to inform the changes I need to make in my life. To be honest though, it’s getting to be a little tiring and I don’t have the energy right now. To surmise briefly, I got my Visa stamped so that I’m registered with the Foreign Police and I started working with one language school. I’ve only taught a few lessons and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet. I also started getting booked for online classes with kids from China and am applying to a bunch of jobs. And I’m super stressed about money right now. Mostly in terms of not having enough and wanting more. 

Okay? But why do I have to talk about myself so much when I’m in this amazing, big, ancient city.

So here’s a list of my 5 favourite places in Prague that I can never remember the name of.

  1. The hill with the Zizkov man where people go running 

This is definitely one of the best views in the city, but I feel pretty dumb when I call it ‘the place with the Zizkov man, you know the guy on the big horse? It’s like up on a hill sort of on the other side of the bus station…’ It’s actually called Vitkov Hill and it separates the Zizkov neighbourhood, where I live, from Karlin on the other side. The statue which faces towards Old Town and looks out at a beautiful, wide vista of Prague, is actually of Jan Zizka, a Hussite military leader and the namesake of the Zizkov district.

The sculpture is the third largest bronze equestrian statue in the world, a comically specific claim to fame. There’s also a museum beside the statue and along the hill, you’ll find a running track, an indoor beach volleyball facility and some fantastic lookout points. Cutting through the hill at the bottom is a walking tunnel that connects the two districts, which is one of my favourite walks in the city, a sentiment shared by few of my friends.

2. That church next to the place where we did some teaching practice 

Speaking of the Zizkov tunnel, not too far from the exit on the Karlin side, you’ll find a beautiful church that I’m just about to look up on Google Maps because I’ve honestly never learned its name. Aha! It’s called ‘Kostel sv. Cyrila a Metodeje’ or Church of Sains and Cyril and Methodius. A brick structure built in 1863, it features a Neo-Romanesque style with two towers.

There are a lot of churches that I haven’t visited in Prague so I don’t know exactly how this one stacks up, but since one of my weeks of TEFL teacher training took place in a building just across the street, I spent a lot of time marvelling at this one. The inside is also quite pretty with colourful stained glass windows, and unlike going to the Cathedral at Prague Castle, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to take this church in without any other tourists in your way.

3. The orchard area near the castle with the nice view

So I think this place is called Chotkovy Sady, but I’m not completely sure. Anyway, it is a very nice uphill walk and will take you only a few blocks away from the Prague Castle area. It’s a perfect location to take photos with a backdrop of the colourful city and it also isn’t too crowded.

If you want to get a little exercise and bask in some amazing views, this park is worth a visit!

4.The big park where I watched these ducks fight with seagulls

I’ve recommended this park to a few people and I always have to go scroll through an old Instagram conversation to check the name. I don’t know why it hasn’t stuck with me yet, since it’s the biggest park in Prague, but it’s called Stromovka. With a bunch of ponds and bridges, surrounded by some fancy important buildings and houses, it’s a calming, enjoyable place to take a stroll or just hang out.

A friend and I spent a considerable amount of time there earlier this month taking photos at the duck pond where a couple of people were tossing bread, initiating absolute chaos when the ducks would chase it, but not be able to swallow it, and then seagulls would swoop in and steal it. Truly an entertaining show like no other.

5. The park with the big metronome sculpture that replaced a big statue of Stalin and a lot of people go up and skateboard there

Okay, I actually know that this is Letná Park and I haven’t forgotten the name in a long time, but it’s just too great not to include it. The big metronome is pretty awesome, even though I’ve never seen it in action (I guess it’s supposed to move, apparently?), but this whole place is beautiful. 

Not only is it a haven for watching large groups of dogs frolic and play, but just outside of the gates is one of the only places that I’ve seen a street cat in the entire time I’ve been here. There’s also been a pretty damn picturesque ice rink set up for the winter at the far end away from the hill.

*I also visited Bohemian Switzerland national park over the weekend and had a layover in London a few weeks ago, so here are some photos of what other things I’ve been up to.*

Future Continuous (Subject + will + be + present participle)

This time next week, I’ll be eating breakfast in my new home in Prague. After back-and-forth journeys and plenty of false starts, I’ll finally be starting on my adventure in the Czech Republic in earnest. But to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that.

The new decade has just begun, but I’ve already spent most of it living in the past. My brain has been stuck on an internal rewind function, reliving moments from the past, anxiety-warped thoughts trying to explain seemingly unjustifiable old hardships. I know I haven’t had a terrible life, but I’ve experienced more than my fair share of rejection both professionally and personally in my twenties.

I’ve worked extremely hard to grow out of being someone who was afraid to leave their room when most others were moving out of their parents’ homes, but fear that behind every door lurks another person or institution ready to hurt me has caused me to relapse more and more often over the past month.

One of the functions of the future continuous tense is to describe an action that will be in progress at a particular moment in the future. This is where my brain needs to learn to live. I hope that sometime soon, my thoughts will be residing in this space permanently. Accepting the past, acknowledging my sadness, but not trying to constantly dissect it. Instead, I should have both eyes pointed at the horizon and not see a reflection of yesterday, but a completely unknown and potentially great tomorrow.

Easy to say, hard to practice.

One of the only constants that I can remember running throughout my entire life is my desire to be a writer. I’ve never been sure in what capacity or how, and I’m nowhere closer to identifying that then I was in second grade, but if I’m not producing written work, I know I won’t be happy. 

Although I put my work out there into the public sphere a lot in university, when it came to journalism and comedy pieces, my more creative aspirations have mostly remained on the shelf. I took a creative writing class in my third year at SFU that morphed into a weird group therapy program and somehow put me in a confrontational relationship with the professor, and it made me retreat further inwards.

Looking to the future, however, I threw all caution to the wind and recently entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition. You pay a fee and then they give you a genre, a topic, and a character, and you are tasked with developing a 2,500-word prose piece. If your work is determined by judges to be in the top five of a 30-person heat, you move on to the next round with similar guidelines but less time. Overall, there are four rounds and a bunch of great prizes. Even if you do not advance though, you get feedback from experts and can submit it to a forum to hear back from any number of the 4,000+ other competitors.

I was tasked with writing a Horror about Bodybuilding with a House-sitter involved. While the writing process was arduous, it was also extremely fun and satisfying to see the final work. If you’re curious about reading it, click the link below.

LINK: Human Growth

Future continuous is also used to talk about fixed future events. I will be finding out the results of round one and getting feedback on March 31. It’s a long time to wait for someone as impatient as me, but I think this project might open my creative floodgates. I’m going to try to write more shorts stories, push to actually put out an online project I’ve been working on, and get back to editing the young adult/children’s novel that I finished in August.

I can’t dwell on past failures too much longer, but also need to be wary of being too paranoid about the present. Due to the way I’ve felt let down in the past, I often find myself negatively using the third use of future continuous, which is for the prediction of current action.

They’ll all hate my story, I’m sure it’s no good. She’ll probably be looking for an excuse not to see me. I’m too often focused on what someone might be doing and while it’s a hard habit to break, it is undeniably a waste of time. If I don’t have any evidence beyond crude mental recreations of the past, I need to be trusting of others until given concrete reasons not to be. 

As for my new life in Prague, I’ll be starting a teaching job almost as soon as I get there and I’m excited but also very nervous to get a routine going. My Visa came just in time to not disrupt my plans too much. I’ll be teaching adults both in group classes and in one-to-ones, using a textbook for the most part. Beyond that, I don’t really know what it will be like. So many other thoughts have been clouding my focus recently, but I hope it can serve as a positive distraction.

The future is relentless, but if I can keep myself only looking in that direction, there may just be something wonderful waiting for me.

Future perfect: A review of The Language House Prague

January 17, 2019

I’ve definitely made some impetuous decisions in my life. Despite being a textbook over-thinker (it took me over an hour to settle on ‘impetuous’ in that last sentence), my life has so far been defined by a few brazen, immediate decisions.

While I often take so long to make a decision on what I want for breakfast that eating cereal at dinnertime is a common occurrence, when it comes to uprooting my life and moving miles away from home, I’ve done it a few times with a shocking lack of planning and consideration.

My last big step was taking a chance on The Language House Prague and it was without question one of the best decisions of my life. Since taking the month-long intensive Teaching English as a Foreign Language program in October, I haven’t had a moment of regret (about that at least… I still think maybe impetuous wasn’t the best word).

As I originally started this blog to chronicle my thoughts and feelings about my move abroad to take the TLH TEFL course, I’ve already touched on a lot of what happened and how I grew as a human being throughout it, but I thought a full recap of the experience might be beneficial to those who may want to follow in my footsteps.

To summarize briefly, The Language House is a highly reputable and acclaimed course for earning a TEFL certificate while gaining actual hands-on teaching experience in the Czech Republic. The school is headquartered in the heart of all the action of Prague, right next to the Náměstí Republiky metro station and just a short walk from historic Old Town.

I first came across TLH in the same way that a lot of my classmates did. We were sick of whatever we were doing and googled ‘ways to live in Europe’. That led me to find out about teaching English, which started a search for the best city, and then that city’s best language school.

Trusting information online was scary since almost every school, despite countless positive reviews, had at least one article that popped up saying it was a scam and making you fear you were being duped. Thankfully, I trusted my gut and the testimony of one family friend alumnus of TLH, and took the plunge.

Less than a month after deciding to make a change of any kind in my life, I found myself flying across the world and touching down in Prague, wondering what the hell I was thinking. My anxiety almost reached a breaking point when within an hour of arrival, after a pleasant ride from the airport to the accommodations arranged by TLH, I was standing in the middle of a construction zone being told that someone would meet me within a minute.

After 40 minutes, I was convinced that I had been conned, and was either going to head right back to Canada or have my organs harvested in this weird ‘Zizkov’ neighbourhood. I thought that even if I somehow got into the slightly dilapidated building I was waiting in front of, things wouldn’t be great because it really didn’t look that nice.

Luckily, the delay ended up being just a rare communication error and I was soon welcomed into Kubelíkova 32 — an apartment building that ended up being a wonderful second home and the gateway to an amazing new life.

Kicking off the course right away after a 24-hour cat nap, I attended a grammar bootcamp session with the founder and head of the TLH program Chris Westergaard. After the rocky start, getting to meet a bunch of my future classmates and seeing the welcoming, knowledgeable, and caring staff in action quickly won me over and I was overjoyed to be there.

That weekend, a two-day orientation was held and we had the immediate opportunity to bond as a group while taking in the best of what Prague has to offer. We took an informative and fun walking tour with a TLH alumnus, did a scavenger hunt around the city, went to a beer tasting, and had an amazing meal at an ancient pub called U krále Brabantského.

Buried deep in a basement with its walls and ceiling lined with skulls, we had duck, dumplings, Pilsner beers, and were treated to an amazing dance performance featuring swordplay and fire breathing. 

And then on Monday, the course started. To my surprise, however, that did not mean the fun ended. It wasn’t as carefree from that point on, but the way in which we were moulded into competent English teachers was by no means a miserable experience.

We were thrown immediately into the fire on the first day, with a jam-packed schedule of classes introducing us to the ESA (Engage, Study, Activate) methodology and giving us a rundown of what to expect over the next four weeks. 

On our second day, we were given our first teaching experience in a low-pressure environment with an assignment in which we taught our classmates a skill. It felt a little silly to teach a group of adults how to fold a paper airplane, but also ended up being a ton of fun.

With only a day and a half of instruction, a lot of my classmates already had an amazing grasp on how to get us excited to learn and guide our way through activities as seemingly mundane as making a cup of tea or shaving.

While the first five days were pretty heavy on instruction time and introducing the basics, like a group of Mr. Miyagis, the TLH staff sneakily gave us the tools of the ESA method without us even realizing what was happening.

Every class was modelled in the same way that we would soon be teaching. Elaborate introductions, icebreaker games, study activities, elicitations of answers — we were observing it in action without even understanding what was happening. And although my inner Daniel-san wanted to rebel, when we stepped in front of a real Czech class for the first time to cap off the week, it ended up feeling a lot more natural than I ever imagined.

I was “waxing on” and “waxing off”, teaching like a pro.

Although our first class was just a 10-minute icebreaker and warmer, it started me down the path to what would be my signature teaching style: over-the-top creative openers, where I put way too much work into props.

My opening icebreaker involved me coming into the class talking on a banana as if it were a phone. I’d pretend that the person on the other end was trying to get some key information from me — my name, job, favourite food, hobbies — and then after I told them I was with people, they wanted the same from my students. 

When I first got a glimpse of the very serious, stone-faced Czech students, I was afraid that it was going to be a disaster, but just as our instructors did while looking at our blank faces on that first Monday morning, I committed fully to my dumb premise.

And they ended up loving it. The joy of watching a 50-something year old pretending that a banana isn’t getting very good reception with his limited English skills really made me understand how fun it could be to teach a foreign language.

The following week, we started teaching full 45-minute practice lessons three nights a week and I made the most of each opportunity. From buying a cupcake and serenading a random student as if it was their birthday for a lesson on celebration lexis, to dressing up like a soccer referee and giving out a red card for a listening lesson, to pretending I was an artist who invented the colour purple for a grammar class on zero conditional — I had a blast.

My observer Amelia was extremely supportive and gave me insightful feedback on how to improve each lesson. I also had the pleasure of watching my classmates grow as well. We were in groups of four, all helping each other and improving alongside one another.

After starting at one of the lowest levels with A2, for the third week, I advanced to B1. I once again had a very talented and helpful observer, Dani, who challenged me to focus on my error correction which added a whole new layer to my teaching ability. While I was a little overwhelmed this week with the increase in expectations and the juggling of various teaching ideologies, I think I only came out of it a stronger teacher.

Within the three weeks of intense lesson planning and full days of classes, we were also assigned to find a student and teach two one-on-one lessons to them, and as well as to complete a few other projects including a 10-lesson activation write up.

The one-on-ones with my partner were a hugely insightful process. I got to visit a real Czech citizen’s home and speak to them about a variety of topics including their job, views on North America, and their heartfelt, but perhaps less-than-politically-correct feelings about Slovakia.

Being able to connect with someone from a completely different generation in a country so far from my own, while also being able to help their English proficiency and see some subtle improvements in just two hours together, was inspiring. They also made me some pretty darn tasty traditional treats.

By the final week of the course, although I was exhausted by all the late nights of studying and worrying (I mean, lesson planning), I definitely felt more confident in the classroom. 

Dealing with a B2 level class, with students advanced enough to know if you were making mistakes, was intimidating, to say the least. I believe I rose to the challenge though.

My observers for the final week, Laura and Amanda, continued to help me grow, but as much fun as I had with my own lessons, the highlight of the entire course was probably the final lesson, after I had already wrapped up my own class.

One of my flatmates, who is a super talented natural communicator and teacher but struggled throughout the course with imparting grammar knowledge onto the students, was given a tricky grammatical point for his final class.

As I had built up an almost familial connection, not just with the friends in my building but everyone in the course; we all spent almost as much time helping each other as we did on our own work, I spent a lot of time helping him make sure his last class was his best.

Building a lesson on the future perfect simple tense around a theme of the apocalypse, he came into the class with a body-length sign proclaiming that the end was coming and had a group of 60-something Czech women put on hats made of tinfoil to stop the government from reading their thoughts.

Not only was the lesson highly entertaining, but he nailed the grammar and really did a great job of teaching the material. That was the peak of the course! Not only had we all learned to teach and were willing to put ourselves out there in ways we probably didn’t envision, but we formed such strong bonds that seeing others succeed was as exciting as our own accomplishments.

After that night, we had a celebratory pub visit with some of the Czech students we met throughout the course, and a few nights later had our wrap-up party. I won awards for my performance on the grammar test and my success on the activation homework, so overall I think I must have been the biggest nerd.

And while there was a bit of sadness after that night, when several friends moved home and went in different directions, in a lot of ways the month I spent at TLH was just the first chapter of a story that I’m very excited to continue.

After taking a little time to travel across Western Europe on my own, I’ve returned to Prague and am now rooming with two of my coursemates in a cool apartment in Zizkov, not far from Kubelíkova, and am applying for jobs.

While Visa concerns are still an issue that should soon be sorted out, I’ve already had a lot of success finding jobs thanks to the reputation of TLH. Overall, I can’t believe how much value I got out of the course; memories that will last a lifetime, a valuable certificate, close friends — I couldn’t recommend the TLH experience more.

I have no regrets about making a short-sighted decision about coming here; it was a complete and utter pleasure! Still not sure if impetuous was the right word though, dammit.

Future simple with ‘going to’ (subject + ‘going to’ + bare infinitive)

January 13, 2019

I’m going to get into a routine soon and everything is going to start feeling alright.

A lot has changed in the past month but at the same time it feels like nothing has happened. The future simple tense with ‘going to’ is used to communicate two broad ideas, the first being in order to discuss pre-made plans.

I have plans that I’m going to get a job teaching English in Prague and that I’m going to start going to the gym and a lot of other things. But it’s all coming together pretty slowly. After having had quite a worry-free life for a couple of weeks before heading home to Vancouver, my return has felt a little different than I expected.

I had an enjoyable time back at home and was thrilled to be with my family again, playing games and laughing. I got to see a few of my close friends too and despite the brevity of our get-togethers, it was reassuring to know that we’re still all close and connected despite being physically far apart most of the time.

We added a new tradition to our family Christmas celebration with some holiday pinatas, made by my brother and his girlfriend, which really livened up our typically quiet affairs. 

Overall, my time at home felt short but pleasant and I was very excited to get back to the Czech Republic where I would see all my new friends. I didn’t quite realize though that I would be walking into such a momentous period of transition for most people.

Some misunderstandings from the time of my arrival to the changing of the calendar over to 2020, put a little bit of a damper on my mood early on, but as everyone gets more settled into their new routines, life is starting to get back to the light, fun way it was just a few short weeks ago.

I’m feeling, however, a little behind in turning my next page. I made a special visit to the Czech Embassy in Ottawa over December and was hoping I could get my Visa for the year approved before I reached my 90 allowed days in the Schengen.

Now, it’s looking like I may have to go back home and wait for it for a little while. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a bit of an inconvenience. I just accepted a job offer at a language school, but now won’t be able to start working potentially for up to two or three weeks.

I also moved into an apartment in Prague, a nice little place in Zizkov next to the TV Tower, with two American friends from my course. It’s been a lot of fun so far, but it feels weird that once again the momentum of my friendships, my job search, and just about everything about my new life is being interrupted.

But the other function of the future simple with ‘going to’ is for predictions with evidence. I don’t know if it’s just the depressing winter weather, or a slightly off head-space I’ve been experiencing lately, but my fortune-telling hasn’t been super positive lately.

If I really look for concrete evidence, however, and ignore all the parasitic negativity in my brain, I know that I have a supportive family, great friends, a lot of talent and potential, so therefore I’m going to have a fantastic year in Prague.

That is a prediction with evidence and I’m going to try my damnedest to turn it into reality.

Future simple with ‘will’ (Subject + ‘will’ + bare infinitive)

I’ll be back in Vancouver on Monday and then I’ll make a quick stopover to Ottawa to submit my application for a Visa. I’ll be coming back to Prague on December 30, staying for awhile, and then hopefully have my Visa returned to me before I reach my allowed 90 days as a tourist. 

I’ll be able to stay in Prague and not have to return to Canada after January 19 and wait for it over there.

I’ll have my first English teaching job interview in January. I’ll be a little behind most of my friends from the October TLH TEFL course, but it will be fine. It will all be fine.

There are seven situations in which one can use future simple with ‘will’, and while none of them is ‘deluding yourself to avoid a nervous breakdown’, that’s my go-to usage these days.

I’m just kidding, everything has actually been going pretty great over the past few weeks. In rare quiet moments, however, it’s easy to panic about the future. Whether I’m wishing my life away or agonizing over tomorrow, it’s never too far from my mind. 

Seldom does it feel simple, but maybe I just need a change in perspective. It’s possible that I may simply need to frame my life through the narrow confines of the future simple tense to assuage my anxieties.

The first use of future simple with ‘will’ is for predictions. If I’m living true to the future simple, I’ll just say that I will find employment in the new year. Boom. Simple. I’ll just forget the job interview and employment PTSD I acquired before I came to Prague, and just flat out predict that I’ll find something that will work out.

I only started applying to teaching jobs last week and have already received a few responses and calls for interviews. From what I’ve heard from others, the process is nowhere near as traumatizing as the steady stream of ghosting and rejection I experienced back home and actually can be a lot of fun.

It seems as if they might actually want to get to know you instead of just ticking off boxes on a paper. Surely some sort of strange Eastern European custom.

Another use of future simple with ‘will’ is for expectations. I’ll go to Ottawa next week and give in my forms and it will get processed quickly. It shouldn’t be a busy time of year and I’ll get it back in the minimum amount of days, allowing me to get settled in the Czech Republic sooner rather than later.

It’s a lot more complicated than that, but I’ll stay true to this experiment and just keep it at that.

Huh, this future simple mindset isn’t so bad! What else is it used for? 

For future facts. It’s a fact that the legal limit for a decision on my Canadian Youth Mobility Visa is 60 days. So even if it takes the maximum amount of time, I won’t have to spend too much time waiting back in Vancouver for it. I will be back soon and ready to start working with everything having been done legally and above board.

It is also used for instant decisions. This one is pretty close to how I got to Prague in the first place. I found out about The Language House, saw that I could get there by October and even though I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay longer than a month, I told myself ‘I’ll sign up’. 

Sure, looking back now, I wish I had started my Visa process right then and there but hindsight is 20/20. I had no idea how much I’d enjoy the Czech Republic and that I would meet such cool people. So now, I’ll be figuring things out in 2020, and it could be a lot worse than that.

The future simple is also used to communicate offers to help or assist and to my great fortune I’ve heard it used a lot from the community I’ve formed in Prague. ‘I’ll help you look for jobs’ and ‘I’ll send you my CV’ have been huge reassurances in the frequent times of great stress that have accompanied my time abroad.

As for promises and threats, luckily the former has come up more frequently for me and I’m happy to assure everyone that I will be back in Prague and spend next year there. Hopefully no one takes that as a threat.

Finally, we can use the future simple for polite requests. The example in our workbook was ‘I’ll take some fries, please’ and as excited as I am that next week, I’ll have the chance to go to my favourite restaurant (the legendary British Columbia chain White Spot — or its fast food counterpart ‘Triple O’s’) and say ‘I’ll have a BC Burger, please’, starting in 2020, I’m looking forward to no, I will be saying: ‘I’ll have another goulash, thanks’.

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.