Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Raining from the trees...

I had a rather strange experience this morning on my walk to work. I live a fairly healthy 20 minutes from my office (part of the reason I spend soooo many hours here!) and as I was walking this morning I began to notice big splashes of water on the sidewalk around the trees. At first I actually thought someone had hosed the trees off, and that it was just dripping from that. As I continued on, however, I realized that all the trees were dripping. Then I saw the ice, flowing down from the tips of all the branches. It was so odd to experience raining trees.
That really is the main reason I felt like writing on here. Just to share about the trees. Sometimes it's so easy to come up with something to write about, and other times I realize it has been ages since I've had anything to say.
I'm sure most of you know by now that I have decided to stay here in Cheb for another year. I'm still a bit befuddled by the decision myself, but I really feel like this is what God has for me at this point in time.
While I often find myself contemplating the future, wondering if I'll ever be settled down somewhere, living a more standardized life, I'm so thankful for all the random experiences I've been blessed to have. I don't know what will come from day to day, but it teaches me to rely ever more on God. Without him, I really would have nothing to show for this strange and transient life I lead.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A week to decide

The finish line is in my sights. I have only a week left to go back and forth about my plans for next year. As of next Monday I must sign in with my official decision whether to stick it out another year, or head back to the great confusion which is life in the United States.
At this point I must say, rather surprisingly, that I'm leaning toward staying. While there is a great possibility that most of the people I've grown really close to so far will not be returning next year, God has really been reminding me that He is the one in control. He knows the things that I am able to bear, and will not put me in a situation that is beyond my abilities. Besides, I think there is still a lot of work for me to do here. It has been said, over and over again, the Spring is the time of year when relationships begin to really open up with students, and I'm really hoping that's true. I feel like, thus far, I haven't really had a chance to get to know them at all beyond the confines of the classroom, and I really would like to. I think often, by showing the ability to commit, people become more open to the idea of really getting to know the foreigners who have seemingly invaded their world. I would like to have a chance to develop some of these friendships, and I really don't see much of any way to do that if I leave after only one school year.
I still haven't set anything in stone just yet, and would definitely appreciate all the prayers I can get at this juncture. In my life of constant change and revision, the thought of even momentary stability is rather nice, albeit fleeting. So if you think of me at all this week, please pray that I'll know for sure the direction I'm meant to lean.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Finishing the weekend

I just realized I didn't finish posting for my trip. We continued on with the tour through the lakes and mountains district, listening to the Sound of Music soundtrack and singing along. Fortunately they're mostly fairly well known songs, so it wasn't to hard to join in on "Do a deer." We spent about an hour in the last village among the lakes where the big church they used for the wedding scene was. Whilst there we had a chance to sample some Austrian cuisine. I learned that it's very similar to Czech Cuisine, seeing as how they were once one country. Still, I enjoyed my cheese strudel, and felt very at one with some of Austria's favorite things.

Our little guide took us back to the Mirabell Gardens and from their we went on our second tour to the Salt mines just outside of Salzburg. We had a nice ride up into the Alps once again. This time we were the only people in the van, so we got some interesting history, and had a chance to see one of the palaces Hitler decided should be his during the occupation. We then made our way to the mines. There are some amazing wooden slides we had to go down, and in order to preserve the quality of our clothing we had to wear some pretty stylin' outfits.

The tour was quite interesting, although I zoned out through some of it. Lots of information about how they leech the salt out of the rocks. I think the most interesting bit was getting to ride in a boat across one of the underground lakes where they are processing the salt. After the tour we returned to our hostel, tired and hungry from a day of traipsing through the Alps. We asked for a recommendation of where to eat, and the guy at the counter sent us on quite a hike. We did get some lovely views along the way, however.

As disappointing as it may seem, upon learning that Czech and Austrian cuisine were so closely related I ended up eating fried cheese for dinner. I just had to see if they could make it as good in Austria as they do in Czech. For the record, it was awfully good. All I can say is, American mozzarella sticks are nowhere near as good as Smazny Syr! After dinner we came back and relaxed for our final night in the hostel.
Sunday morning we were up bright and early, rushing to pack up and see the last couple of sights. Naturally the weather was AMAZING today. We were tempted to stay later in the day, but the early morning train was our cheapest option, and we didn't want to miss it. Besides, I had lesson planning to do because Mondays are my busiest days of the week. We did enjoy watching the sun rising over the Alps, even if we weren't anyplace where we could take good photos of it.
We made our way into Old Town in order to find the birthplace of Mozart. Seeing as how this is his town, we thought we should at least hit up his most famous sights. After wandering almost to the end of the best shopping district in town, I was feeling quite frustrated at not having been able to spot it. We ran across a man who obviously worked in one of the very closed restaurants (not much is open at 7 AM on a Sunday morning) and we asked him if he could tell us how to find the house.
"It's very difficult," he said. "You turn around the way you came, walk about 150 meters, and it's #9 on the right."
come to find out we'd been standing right next to it when Nicole had stopped to tie her shoe. I just thought it was on the other side of the street. Ah well. We got our photos and moved on to the house where he lived. It wasn't nearly as eye catching, so I'm only putting up a photo of the Geburtshaus.

We still had plenty of time to make it back to our train, and proceeded to have a lovely sunny ride back to Czech.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Hills are ALIVE!!!

Just for the chance to remind myself how amazing it is to live in Europe, I spent this past weekend in Salzburg. It's one of the beauties of being able to hop on a train for a three day weekend. I can easily forget what an amazing opportunity I'm in the middle of, when the days grow long and monotonous. So to mix things up my friend Nicole, who teaches at a high school here in Cheb, and I decided to make the most of proximity, and took the 5 hour (stretched to 6 due to a long stop-over in Marktredwitz) to explore the amazing city of Salzburg, Austria.
We headed out early on Friday morning, and were blessed with amazing weather, and a great hostel location when we arrived in town in the mid-afternoon. After checking into our hostel, a fortunate recommendation from Crystal, we were in awe of the view.

The fortress sits high up on a hill overlooking the whole city and can be seen from pretty much everywhere in town. On Saturday we went on a couple of guided tours, and were able to see the castle from pretty much every angle. Just below the castle is a church and monastery. This church was where part of "The Sound of Music" was filmed. We walked up there right away and had way too much fun taking pictures from every possible viewpoint.

We wandered around until it got dark. Then, upon arriving back at the hostel we learned that every night at 8 they show "The Sound of Music." Having only seen the movie once (a horror that nearly made Rebekah deny she had ever known me) I decided it was only fitting to take advantage of the opportunity. Nicole had actually never seen the movie, making her an even less appropriate candidate for the tour we were planning on going on the next morning. Having spent the afternoon wandering around the city we were able to pick out quite a few of the places we had been in the movie.
We spent a short and noisy night in our bunk beds. Fortunately there was only one other girl in our room for the night. We got up bright and early and were disappointed to see that the sounds of rain that had haunted our dreams were, in fact, a reality. Nevertheless, we were determined to take in as much as we possibly could. We headed down for breakfast and booked two tours for the day.
Our first tour was called: the most unique "Sound of Music" tour. It was, indeed a fascinating tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable, and shared information both about the city, as well as about the movie and the actual events. There were quite a few discrepancies betwixt these two. Most interesting was the fact that Christopher Plummer, who played the father in the movie, didn't actually like working with children...hmmm...must not have been the most fun experience for him.
This tour took us all around the city of Salzburg, and then up into the mountains around the city. Unfortunately the Alps were not wanting to be viewed on this occasion, and we mostly saw fog and drifting snow. Still, it was quite interesting and beautiful. So here are some views of the tour:

Here are the Mirabell Gardens were our tour began. Most of the pathways were not open, but we wandered around to the best of our abilities and enjoyed the limited winter views. We were definitely here in the off season. It was still quite beautiful, and we spotted numerous places from the movie.
So it looks a little bit like I'm in "Singing in the Rain" instead of "The Sound of Music," but the fountain was seen in the movie.

These stairs were danced upon by Julie Andrews. Just had to write a sentence in the passive tense since I've been teaching it so much recently. :)

This Palace was used in the movie as the back side of their house. They actually used two different palaces for the house the Trapp's lived in. This is the lake that was seen in the back yard. This palace is now owned by the US and isn't open for the public, but is used as part of a university.

The very famous gazebo, with me and Nicole in front. We were on a tour with two couples and felt a bit out of place being without a couple (sigh)
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This is a palace that is just used in stock photography in the movie, but I thought it was so beautiful.

Here is the actual home of the Trapp family. It is now owned by the Catholic church, so we weren't able to go inside, only to the gate.
Now the internet is deciding to go slow, so I think this will have to be it for today. Enjoy. :)