Friday, April 23, 2010

Things I love about Prague...

Looking out my bedroom window and seeing the beautiful sky, Castle and Petrin

Lazy mornings drinking coffee and catching up on our TV shows

The best hamburger place around the corner with the waiter who knows our order

Riding the bus to school

Sun bathing on our terrace

Delicious meals with wine by candle light at 9 pm

Michelle, Talitha, Jess, Lucie, Kara, Betsy

My kids

Tram rides through the city

The metro

Quality time with good friends

7 Kc coffee machine at school

Cute/fun/unique cafes

Fresh bread and cam. cheese

Parks with lots of green grass, trees and benches

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hello loves. Just a quick note to let you know you're not missing anything on this side of the ocean. :) (I know you've been wondering, since you can't fly over at the moment to find out for yourselves!)

It's been a pretty normal week and a half. Classes have been going well - the kids are a little bit more control-able than the week after spring break. :) We've been trying to come up with new ideas though, to get us through the end of the year. I think we'll be ok. I've also spent plenty of time relaxing and enjoying the nice weather we've had. It still could be a bit warmer, but we've been able to get out and enjoy some of the parks and the beautiful trees that are in bloom. I'm planning on going up to Petrin (big, famous hill/park) each weekend to see the new flowers that are springing up for the next month. The rose garden will be in bloom soon too!

My dear friend Emily (Cochrane) Boys is coming next weekend as well! (You're famous, Em :) Please pray that everything with the flights to Europe clears up by then (and sooner, for everyone else we know who's stuck either here or there)!! I'm so excited to see and talk with her, and show her around my city. :)

That's all for now. Hope you all are having a wonderful week!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mr. President

Well, I told you I'd let you know if I saw him walking around our neighborhood - I was pretty close. :) Walking home from my tutoring I noticed helicopters in the sky, police EVERYWHERE and a large crowd on the corner of our street by the Ambassador's house. I wandered over to see what was up and this is what I found.

A few minutes later he arrived, along with with 11 or so other important people for a dinner at the U.S. Ambassador's house. I saw him in the back of his limo, however, he didn't see me because he was looking down at some papers or something. :)

The only disappointing thing was that Talitha got a police escort to our house, since the whole street was blocked off, but I didn't. :( I guess I came in on the corner that was closer and they just let me through when I told them our number. Sigh. Oh well. Still a pretty exciting day if you ask me...

Thursday Morning

Well, I wanted to give you another post before the week was up, but whenever I had time I was just too tired, so I had to let it wait until today.

My morning class was cancelled this morning (school program of some sort) so I had a couple of extra hours around the house which was nice. I have to go in in a little while for my two afternoon classes and then tutoring. President Obama is here in Prague today as well - there were some signs on my bus route saying it would be detoured because of it. Our big trash and recycling cans were also removed from the corner of our block. They either want things to look nicer, or they're worried about bombs. Either is legit, I guess. I'll let you know if I see him walking around our neighborhood! :)

Anyway, the past week has been a good one too. I had lots of fun over our long Easter break (Thurs. Fri. and Mon. off of school) just hanging around the city exploring and checking things off of our "things to do in Prague" list. We went to the zoo, found the Lennon Wall, walked along the river, and visited a couple of new cafes. You can see some pics from the weekend here:

On Easter Sunday I went on a hike in the morning in a big park close by with a friend from church and then went to our church service in the evening. We've been talking about the parable of the Lost Son for the past couple of weeks which has been great. This week we talked about how Jesus is our true "older brother" who, unlike the older brother in the story, came to our rescue and sacrificed his life so that we could be reunited with our Father. And how God rejoices and invites us in to relationship with him saying "Here is my Son! He was dead but is alive again! Celebrate with me!" And that's the reality that we live with every day! It's good to be reminded of that.

Our women's Bible study has also been going well. I think I mentioned before that we're studying the book of Colossians. It's definitely a loaded book (as are all of Paul's writings) and honestly, I've struggled a bit with feeling almost silly for thinking we could just sit in our living room and unpack it, and learn the truths from it on our own. But the truth is, that's what God longs for us to do. To sit at his feet and dig deeper. And I just have to trust that He can and will show us new things about himself. There's just so much there!! It makes me wonder too, how much do we go through life missing?? But again, it just about focusing our heart and mind and saying Father, I want to know you more, and trusting him to reveal himself. I'm sure that's one of his favorite prayers to answer. :) This week we focused on the end of chapter two. One of the verses that stuck out to me was verse seventeen, talking about focusing on religious rules and celebrations, etc. it says... "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." The reality is Christ and what he did for us on the cross. That's what's important. That's what matters. Everything else is but a shadow. Make sure you're focusing on the real thing today!! :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And the final bit...

Ok, so now for the even more over-due update about my trip. (Scroll down if this is the first post you've seen in a while - there are 2 more updates about daily life from earlier in the day :).

The trip was wonderful. :) Like I said before I left - three good friends came to visit for the week that I was on spring break, and the week/weekend following. Jess, my good friend here came with us on the last leg of our journey as well. It was very brave of her to join us. :) Here's the group at it's largest:

So it was lots of fun renting a car (Rachel learned how to drive a stick about two months earlier, but did marvelously!) and sitting in the navigating seat for most of it. A few of the cities were a bit stressful to drive in and out of (Munich and Vienna!!) but other than that it was good. We just became very good at reading our maps, asking for directions, and finding knew ways to get to places. :) Honestly, some of the best parts were driving from place to place, oo-ing and aw-ing at the glorious scenery (The Alps). We didn't have too much of an agenda the whole time - just general ideas of things we wanted to do and when, so this allowed us to spend as much time as we wanted yelling out "Rachel, pull over!" so that we could stop and take pictures, like so...

Munich, Germany we enjoyed; however, we were ready to move on after a couple of days. Fussen, Germany was quaint and charming and the castles we saw were so fun. The weather this first week was pretty frigid - "unseasonably cold" we kept hearing with the high temp being around -14 or -12 degrees Celsius. This did prove to be worth it, however, for the day we went to the castles - it literally looked like a winter wonderland with layers upon layers of white fluffy snow, and snowflakes literally sparkling in the air against the deep blue sky. You can see pictures of it, and the first half of the trip if you copy and paste this link:

After Munich and Fussen we drove to Salzburg, Austria for our very own Sound of Music Tour. We printed off the list of sights and Rachel (amazingly) google-mapped directions to each of them. We did find them all, despite a few wrong turns and misleads and it was so much fun so see it all in person.

The back of the Von Trapp Family house (with the Hohensalzburg Fort in the background)

My favorite story from the trip actually comes from this tour of ours.

We were trying to find the Rock Riding School which is the outdoor theater that hosts the festival that the Von Trapp Family sings in at the end of the movie. This was the sight that I was most looking forward to seeing, both because of it's beauty and the significance it has in the film. The back of the theater is majestically carved into the side of the mountain with rows upon rows of arch ways. In the movie the German soldiers are standing in each of these arch ways, as they are planning on taking Captain von Trapp in for service to the Third Reich at the end of the night. After tearfully singing his Edelweiss love song to his country, however, Captain von Trapp escapes with his family through the corridors of the theater and takes refuge in the Abbey before running to the hills.

We had the location pinpointed on our city map, but when we got ourselves there, all we found was a very large and very long modern-looking building. On the side of the building, however, we found a picture of the theater (advertising tours of it) and the same stone that it was made out of. There were actually lots of old steps that led up to a walk-way at the top. All of that, however, still did not get us to the actually theater. We knew it had to be there somewhere, so we kept searching. Eventually we walked back around to the front and concluded that what we were seeing was actually a modern-day theater that they had build around the one we were looking for, so that it could be used for shows in everyday life. Having concluded that what we were seeking was just inside, we did what anyone would do - we tried to go inside. We soon found, however, that as it was the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week with no shows playing, the likely hood of finding an open door was not very high. But not being the type to give up, we kept trying and eventually found that one of three doors in a large gate was open. Very pleased with that discovery we stepped into the gated area and tried the door of the building. This too was opened, so we made our way inside.

As we had thought, the building was a modern-day theater with large, open halls and tall ceilings. My heart was beating rather quickly at this point, but we were so close that we were not about to turn around now (did I mention that I was leading this exhibition?) We heard some voices and saw a man walk by talking on his phone, but just pretended like we had every right to be there, obviously. So we walk farther in and down the hall and come to some more big wooden doors. I tried one of these, and sure enough it was opened. At this point we just peaked our head inside and saw that it was yet another large hall, with a long counter bar on the side and two staircases on either side at the far end of it. It was the place where people come out for refreshments during the intermission of a show. At this point we knew that we were getting even hotter, but still did not know quite what to do. We also heard more voices coming our way. Rather than doing something crazy like hiding, I decided to be on the offensive and stop to ask them if they knew where the theater was. The voices were that of two middle-aged men speaking German, but when I asked if they spoke English they were eager to help. They said that they too were wishing to see the Rock Riding School theater, and that it was indeed behind the rooms we were standing in. The doors to it, however, were all locked they said, due to it being under construction (we found this construction to be common theme, touring in the off season). I was very sad to think that we could be so close and yet so far. "You can't even peak your head in to look at it?" I asked. But no, they said. All locked. We thanked them and they went on their way, leaving us to decide our next step.

Well, the only thought I had was that it couldn't hurt to try it on our own. That mentality had gotten us this far at least, what would be the harm? Rachel and Jamie being in agreement, we went back into the big hall and this time walked down to the end with the stairways. We could look back and up and see/hear some construction working going on with the lighting, but those men didn't seem to notice us being there. When we got to the end of the hall we saw that there were doors at the top of the stairs on either side. A bit more excited now, we tried the door on the right, but quickly found it to be locked. Not deterred in the least I crossed over to the door on the left and found that it was not only unlocked, but it was partially opened with big electrical cords running out from it. And along with the cracked door came a cool outdoor draft and this point my heart was pounding.

I whisper-shouted for Rachel and Jamie to join me, pushed the door even more ajar and stepped over the thresh hold. Directly to the right were some stairs leading down with an old music stand at the top of them. In front of me and wrapping slightly more to the right were about ten more steps leading up and beyond those I could see the stone arch ways of the theater on the opposite side. I was too shocked to go any farther at this point, so Jamie took the lead climbing up the steps and snapping pictures. Rachel followed close behind, and then me. Standing at the top of the steps we were actually in one of the archways of the theater looking out at the stage and everything else. There was lots of construction, and a big tarp covering the seating area (which is where we would have come in, had we done it the right way, from the front of the theater) but the whole back of it, built into the mountain where we were standing, was the same. It was pretty freakin' cool. :)

We snapped a few pictures and then turned and ran back down and out. At this point I had the scene of the German soldiers chasing the family through the theater running through my head, but I tried to push that aside as we calming left the building.

So there you have it. Again, there are many stories from the almost three weeks we spent together, but I'll spare you any more details unless you specifically ask for them. :)

After Salzburg we drove to two other small towns close by - Mondsee and St. Gilgen which were both set beautifully on a lake in the mountaints and then back to Munich and Oberaummergau, another small German town. From there we headed back to Prague and had a very enjoyable time here. The girls did lots of exploring during the day while I was teaching and then we spent our evenings either taking in the beautiful night time shots of the city, or making dinner and giving each other massages. :)

The next weekend we drove to Vienna and then back to Salzburg, St. Gilgen (to share with Meagan) and Munich to drop of Meagan at the airport. Rachel and Jamie drove me back to Prague, rested up for the night and then headed out the next day. You can see the rest of my pictures from the second half of the trip if you copy and paste this link:

Well, I think that's enough of an update for you for now at least. :) It's at least as much as I can type at the moment. Thanks for reading! <3

(Sound of Music pose we forgot to do at the scene) :)

A few hours later...

See, I told you I'd find more time!

Like I said, I have the next few days off for Easter. It's interesting to me that one of the most atheistic countries has Easter Monday as a national holiday, and many schools (like mine) give more that that as well. It was also surprising to find that some of my students were familiar with the Resurrection story and had even learned about it a little bit in class!

They do have some original Easter traditions here. There are Easter markets up everywhere, filled with yummy food, crafts and millions of beautiful painted eggs. The main tradition in the Czech, though, is for the boys (although even adults do it too) to chase around the girls and hit them with sticks, while the girls have the right to throw water on them. Interesting, huh... but don't worry, this is only allowed on Easter Sunday until noon. No stick-hitting after that. If a girl is hit with a stick, though, it is said that she is blessed with "youngness." So I guess it's a good thing...? You also don't have to worry about finding a good stick - they are sold in the check-out line at the local grocery market.

Also because of our days off, Michelle and I are tackling our "things to do in Prague" list. We started this list when I first came, and we've been doing things here and there. We're excited though, to have this time to not travel far, but enjoy the great things that are in our own back yard. We went to the Letna Beer Gardens the other day (pictured in the previous post) and tomorrow we are going to the Prague Zoo (ranked 7th in the world!) so that should be exciting! :)

Also this past week - yesterday to be exact, I participated in the public Bible reading that Sasha Fleck and his church group put on! They did this last year around Easter as a celebration for finishing the new Bible translation. It is actually something that cities all across the Czech have participated in, having set hours to read the Bible out loud in the city square. I helped hand out information about the Bibles and churches in the city to those who were interested. Again, it was really neat to be a part of something that could not exist such a short time ago! You can be praying that God's Word that was sent out would accomplish what He desires!

Back in Action

Hi Everyone!!!

I'm so sorry it's taking this long to get back into the swing of keeping you updated with what's going on over here across the ocean. Let's just say it's been a busy couple of weeks (I know, I know, it's always that way). I do have pictures up finally from my spring break trip with friends from back home! And many good stories to go along with them. I will have to make you wait a little longer for those, however.

I'd rather fill you in on life since then first, and fill you in on the rest in the next few days. I have a long weekend off of school (Thurs. - Mon.) for Easter so, the likely hood of actually finding time to write is pretty high! :)

Anyways, I had a four day week last week and only a three day week this week so it was a nice transition out of vacation-mode. We did, however, have some extra things going on at school. There are about ten more "future first graders" who are interested in our program than we have room to take for next year's classes. As a result, the principal of our school decided that we should conduct mini interviews with each student and their parents to see if we could narrow down the list and basically decide who to take and who not to take. Yea, a little sketchy, but that's the way it was. So, Michelle and I and our assistants, along with the principal met with each child individually for 15 min. each after school. Michelle and I did different activities with them while our assistants and the principal talked with their parents. We also had to write down what we observed about the children, so that we could use the information for making our decision about each child. Needless to say, almost every 6 year old acting exactly the same in the one-on-one environment, and since we're not basing it off of their English level, we didn't gain a whole lot of useful information. I guess that's how it goes though - you gotta do what cha gotta do.

Ok, and I just tried to write a paragraph about staying on for another year... it is April Fool's you know... but I couldn't bring myself to do it. :) Not that many of you would have believed it in the first place. :) And I'm out of time for now, so I will have to leave it at that. All for now!

Spring is in the air!

Beer Gardens at Letna park.