Halfway through, but nowhere near halfway done

In the last month I have attended three balls. Yes, balls. At my school (and at schools across the Czech Republic), the graduating classes have a final ball called Maturita Ples which literally means “Graduation Prom.” This is a fitting title because their proms are like a mixture between our proms and graduation. It’s like prom because there is dancing, music, and decorations. It’s like graduation because each student has their name called (along with their accomplishments) and are given a sash and a glass of champagne. Also the students’ family, friends, and teachers are all there to celebrate their accomplishments. It really is a beautiful ceremony because each student has their moment to shine and their love ones are there to see it.

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I attended three balls and I had three completely different experiences. The first ball I went with the girls I play basketball with, the second ball I went with my fellow English/PE teachers, and at the third ball I invited Miriam (a fellow Fulbright teacher) to be my date. All the balls were a lot of fun and a great opportunity to talk to my students informally, hang out with my colleagues, and spend time with my friends.

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Each ball began with  a themed performance by the students which usually involved a dance of some sort, music, and funny costumes. Then one-by-one the students are called up. Family and friends throw coins at the students as they recieve their Maturita sashes. Finally all the money is collected, they take a class photo, and the dancing begins. This was my favorite part of the ceremony because the first dance is a student- teacher dance. In December I had my students teach me how to Waltz, Vienna Waltz, Polka, Jive, Cha-Cha, and Blues dance so that I would be ready for this moment. I am happy to say that I killed it! After that, students dance with their parents and then the floor is open to everyone. At each ball there was a traditional dance floor and a disco. I don’t really enjoy the disco music here, but I love to dance so I spent a lot of time on  both dance floors. The first two balls were at the sports center but the final one was in Kokos, which is where I live! It was really nice to be able to go straight to bed because although fun, the balls were extremely tiring. I am glad that I was able to take part in such a wonderful cultural experience.

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This week also marks the halfway point of my Fulbright grant. I have been here for exactly five months (yesterday) and I can’t believe how quickly the semester has gone by. This weekend we have our mid-year conference in Slovakia in which we will give a presentation on our experiences so far. As I gathered together photos from the last couple of months it hit me just how many great memories I have made already. Not to mention all the lessons I have learned along the way. Although I’ve done a lot in five months, I’m nowhere near done. There are so many things that I want to accomplish in the second half of this journey. For example, I have yet to make the perfect gulas or gone skiing in the mountains or visited the Eastern part of the Czech Republic. Time is running out but I am going to make sure that I make every last day count. Fulbright really is a once in a lifetime experience and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to teach, learn, travel, and grow as an individual.

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