It has been a little while since I wrote anything here, sorry about that. Well, as you can see by the title of this entry there are changes happening around Slovakia. Probably the biggest permanent change was the change in currency that happened at the beginning of January. Slovakia is now one of about thirty countries that uses the Euro. I do not know when the change was voted on, but there has been work happening for this change since I arrived in Slovakia. Some of the preparations became more apparent when it was closer to the new year. A set conversion rate between the Slovak Crown and the Euro was in place when I arrived. Starting in December every place that sells goods had to have prices displayed in both Crowns and Euros. The prices are still displayed in both currencies. I learned from one of my student's speeches that both currency prices being displayed will last until December, 2009. The last day Slovak Crowns were accepted as payment was January 17, 2009. Banks will continue to accept Crowns for deposit for a few months though, June or July I believe.
Another change that happened is hopefully not a permanent change. This has to do with Slovakia's gas supply. Some of you may have heard mention of this in the news. If not, I will briefly fill you in on what has happened there. Slovakia receives most of it's gas supply, for heating and such, from Russia. The gas is sent through a pipeline system that runs through the Ukraine. There was/has been a dispute between Russia and the Ukraine. Russia had been allowing the Ukraine to receive it's gas for a price lower than the rest of Europe and wanted to start charging the Ukraine the same as the rest of Europe. The Ukraine did not want to agree to the change in price. Russia then accused the Ukraine of stealing gas. Supplies were limited, but then were completely cut off starting January 7. This cut-off affected the Ukraine as well as a large section of Europe. Many countries were without any heat or had to minimize consumption. This happened when temperatures were below freezing, a few days it was as cold as -18C at night or a little colder. Slovakia was not impacted as much as some countries, but some people did lose their jobs because of factories not being able to have all their shifts. There had been an agreement for Slovakia to receive gas through pipelines that run through Poland and the Czech Republic. I am not sure if there has been any form of agreement reached between Russia and the Ukraine up to this point.
Another change that has happened did not affect the whole country or other parts of Europe. This change did affect the school I work at though. We started a new semester and with that came a new schedule. I still teach the same students, but the days and times I meet them, as well as the rooms we meet in, have changed. I am almost through my first week with the new schedule. So far it is going well, it may take a little time to get used to.
Between the end of the previous semester and the start of this semester we had a half year break. Last Thursday my school had a church service at 8am and then that was it for school until Monday. Since I had a long weekend it seemed a good time to do something. Jenny, my flatmate, had a friend that was visiting for two weeks and was going to be flying out of Krakow Saturday. They asked if I wanted to go with to Krakow, and I said yes. The three of us left Thursday afternoon for Krakow and arrived there that evening. Jenny and I headed back to our apartment Saturday and spent the day traveling and resting. A seven hour train ride and getting up at 3am to go to the airport can take a lot out of a person.
I am looking forward to what this semester brings for myself and my students. At the end of the semester I asked for feedback from my students and was very surprised and happy with some of their responses. Many students said how my class was their favorite, they like the relationship I have between myself and the students in that I actually listen to and ask for their opinions, one said the thing they did not like from the semester was when our conversation classes were cancelled and another said they thought our conversation classes were not long enough. Can you imagine, a student wanting to be in class longer, I guess I must be doing something right. I hope I can continue what I am doing and that my students continue to give their thoughts and opinions in class.