Saturday, May 29, 2021

Radio Free Europe

Radio Free Europe (RFE) was established in 1949 and Radio Liberty (RL) was established in 1951.  In 1976 the two organisations merged together.  These radio stations were run by the United States and they broadcast American propaganda in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.  The goal was to inspire independence movements within the Warsaw Pact countries and to counter Soviet propaganda within these countries.

During the Cold War, Radio Liberty targeted the Soviet Union while Radio Free Europe broadcast to Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and the three Soviet Baltic states.  The communist governments weren't keen on American propaganda and they routinely tried to jam the transmissions.  In 1959, an StB agent attempted, but failed, to poison the salt shakers in RFE's cafeteria.  

RFE was headquartered in Munich, West Germany until 1995.  In 1995, the headquarters were moved to Prague.

Here's an old 1960's or 1970's public service announcement about RFE broadcasting to Hungary that I found out on YouTube.

Following the end of the Cold War, operations in Europe were decreased.  RFE stopped broadcasting to Czechoslovakia in 1992 but Czech programming lasted until 2002 and Slovak programming ended in 2004.

Broadcasts to Hungary ended in 1993 while broadcasts to Poland ended in 1997.  Broadcasts began in 1994 in Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian to the former countries of Yugoslavia.  In 1999, Albanian broadcasts began in Kosovo.  In 2000 broadcasts began in Montenegrin and Macedonian broadcasts began in 2001.  In 2004, broadcasts ended in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Romania.  In 2019, programming resumed in Bulgaria and Romania.  In 2020, programming resumed in Hungary.

Today, RFE/RL broadcast to 23 countries in 27 languages.  Its headquarters remain in Prague even though no content is produced in Czech.  Here's where they currently produce material for.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

In the Lithuanian News

Yesterday morning I received a message from a Lithuanian friend in Prague that a photo of me was in the Lithuanian news.  What!?!?  I haven't been to Lithuania in a while so I had no idea what this was about.  Perhaps it's another one of these "I'm everywhere" or "I'm still everywhere"things.

One of the Lithuanians at work was featured on a website about her life and how she ended up in Brno. By the way, this is the same chica who made me give the Mozaiko presentation a few weeks ago.

One of the photos used is of us on the IBM float during the 2019 Prague Pride

The article is pretty interesting.  Obviously it is entirely in Lithuanian but Google Translate will give you the jist.  Congratulations Rimgailė on your write up!

Saturday, May 22, 2021

České Reálie Certificate

Yesterday I received in the mail my certificate from ÚJOP (the Institute of Language and Vocational Training of Charles University) that I passed my Czech Citizenship test, the české reálie.  There's no score indicated other than that I successfully passed the exam.  

There's nothing that shows that I failed the language test.  I suppose I'll get another one of this in the future when I do pass the language exam.

The citizenship test wasn't difficult.  Obviously, if I took the test in 10 minutes and managed to pass.  But it does feel good to know that I've done it.  Now to make sure that I put this somewhere safe so that I can find it later when I actually apply for citizenship.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Vaccine #1

So on Tuesday night I was able to register online for my vaccine even though Wednesday was the day that people 45+ were eligible.  My appointment was for 10 am out at the Brno Exhibition Centre. 

I arrived a little before 9:30 and I was able to register.  There was a control where I had to show my ID and my health insurance card.  I also had my temperature taken and had to fill out a short form.

I then had to wait in a small queue to be called to see a nurse.  The nurse needed to see my passport.  We were speaking Czech but as soon as she saw my American passport she immediately switched to English.  I had to answer a few simple questions and then she directed me to where I needed to actually get my shot.  As I was walking to where I needed to go she yelled out "anglicky" and I was immediately greeted and told what to do in English.  

Even though I failed my Czech exam I was still comfortable doing everything in Czech so I didn't need anyone to speak English.  For many of the foreigners here I'm sure that having volunteers speaking English would be very comforting.  

It's amazing just how much the city has changed in the past almost 12 years.  When I first arrived it wasn't so common for people to speak English.  Your ears would perk up if you overheard someone speaking English in the city.  Now, not so much.

Anyway, back to the story.  I was directed to take a seat and a few minutes later another nurse came by with a trolley.  I received the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and I then had to wait 15 minutes.  I was then given my immunisation card showing that I received my first dose on 15.5., and I will get my second dose six weeks later on 26.6.  By 10:05 I was walking out of the building.  Everything was really well organised I was impressed by how smooth the entire process was.

I didn't have any real side effects to the vaccine.  On Sunday my arm was a little sore but nothing severe.  On Sunday evening I started to feel like I was beginning to come down with a cold.  I took some over-the-counter cold tablets and went to bed early.  This morning I woke up completely fine.  Now I just have to wait the six weeks until I get my second dose.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Vaccine Appointment

Vaccines are rolling out here in Czechland.  As of 5 May, people aged 50 - 54 could register online to receive their first shot.  As of today, people over 45 could register online.  It's only a couple of months before I turn 50 so I've tried to register last week but the system would not allow it.

However, I tried last night, and the system let me book an appointment for this Saturday at 10 am. 

You must have a mobile phone in order to register online.  The website is available in Czech, English, and Vietnamese.

You enter in your mobile number and then wait a few minutes to receive a security code.  After you get the code you log in with your name and social insurance number.  Assuming that you're meet the registration age criteria you then get to select the vaccination site where you want to get the shot.  You don't get to choose which of the vaccines you want; only the location where it will be administered.  I received a message that I would receive a PIN code to book the day and time of the vaccine but that it could take up to a few weeks depending on the location's availability.

About an hour later I received the PIN and went online.  Yeah!  So let's see which flavour of vaccine I get on Saturday.

Restrictions loosed up a little this week.  As of Monday, retail and most services reopened.  Respirators are no longer required outside unless you are in a large crowd.  They still need to be worn inside and on public transportation.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Exam Results

I received the results from my exams today.  The results were posted online this morning.  They were serious about having to wait 30 days for the results.

First the good news.  I passed the Czech Citizenship test.  That wasn't a surprise.  It was 30 questions in 30 minutes and I finished it about about 10 minutes.  I didn't receive a score, just that I passed.

Now the bad news.  I failed the B1 Czech language test.  There were four parts to the exam - reading comprehension, listening comprehension, writing, and speaking.  Overall, you have to score 60% in order to pass.  I scored 61%.  So technically I had enough points to pass the exam.

However, you can't score below 60% in any of the four areas.  This is what did me in.

Reading comprehension - I scored 68%.  Better than I thought I did.

Writing - 60%.  On the borderline but cool.

Speaking - I scored 76%.  Not bad at all.

Listening comprehension - I only scored 40%.  This is where I truly bombed the exam.  If I had only gotten 3 more correct answers on the listening section then I would have passed the entire exam.  

Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way.  So now I have to take the entire exam all over again.  Not the citizenship test because I did pass that one.  But I now have to retake the entire language test.  Plus pay another 3.700 Kč ($170) to sit for the exam again.  

Not quite what I was hoping for.  I have friends who passed this exam and can't really speak Czech.  At least my Czech is way better than theirs but I'm the one who didn't pass.  I probably need a couple of days to get over the disappointment and then figure out when I can take the test again.  Hopefully I won't have to wait too long.

Update:  I received my certificate for passing the citizenship test.

Update:  I passed the language exam on my second attempt.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Mozaiko Presentation

A couple of months after I first moved to Brno I had to give a "Me & IBM" presentation to the project management unit.  Basically where I came from, my background, how I ended up in Czechland, blah blah blah.  It's hard to believe that was almost 12 years ago.

Mozaiko is the local IBM communications team initiative to champion cultural diversity.   The team has been on me for a while about basically doing the same kind of presentation but for the entire centre.   I've dodged the bullet a few times by recommending other speakers but I finally ran out of excuses so it was my time to present again.

Over the years I've had many people want to see photos of me when I was a kid and from when I was in the U.S. Air Force.  Never let it be said that I'm not a good sport.  

Me with a football?  I don't even like American football.  

Back at basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.  This was October 1989 before I went to tech school.

I then gave the story of how a California dude ended up in Atlanta before eventually coming to Brno.

I shared my career history of how I found myself working for IBM.  I spoke about some of the opportunities I've had here in Brno as well as about how I keep myself busy while not working.

Yesterday's web presentation and Q&A session lasted an hour.  The entire thing was recorded and made available for IBMers who can download it.  Hopefully this means I'm off the hook for at least a few more years.

Friday, May 7, 2021

New Driving Test Law

A new law was just passed here in Czechland that limits the number of times you can take a driving test.  Previously there was no limit.  Now, under the new law, if someone fails any part of their driver's test they are allowed to repeat it two more times.

If they don't pass it after the third time then they have to repeat the relevant training again.  The candidate then gets another three tries to pass the test.  If they fail all three times then they have to repeat the entire driving course again.

Another change is that the driving school instructor is no longer required to accompany the candidate and the examiner during the driving test.

It's been almost ten years since I received my Czech driver's license.  I need to see what I have to do to renew it.