Friday, September 25, 2009

The Gardens of Kromeriz and a Journey into the Soul

Last weekend I took a trip to Kromeriz, a small town in Moravia, a good 8+ hours from Cheb. After the 8pm train to Prague (which arrived around midnight) I wasn't overly thrilled to be up at 6:30 the next morning. We showed up in Kromeriz around noon, exhausted and a bit dazed, and were thrust immediately into a full afternoon of meetings.
This year Kelly's dad, Ron Keust, came to speak to us. His role was to encourage and motivate us to learn better how to serve and uphold our CA teams this year. At the end of the weekend he even gave us copies of his book Embracing Conflict. A little light reading for those long winter nights ahead. He spoke primarily about growing the soul. Some insights from the weekend:
Management is about coercion
Leadership is about influencing
It was an interesting concept to think about. My job is by no means to try to coerce other people to follow some strict set of rules. I think it's really easy to believe that, because there is this long contract we all sign in order to work for ESI, and because failure to abide by the "rules" there in can lead to expulsion from the program, that we have singed in to some excessively legalistic group. In such a setting, my job would be to watch over my minions in order to jump down their throats the moment I see them straying in any way shape or form from the before mentioned contract. But we have not been sent into this world to be slaves, but to be free. The goal is not to beat people over the head with the letter of the law, but to live a life of example here for the people we have come to love and serve. All this points to the fact that we are all here to be leaders in a sense. Leaders striving to show the way to a fulfilling life in Christ.
Tied closely to this was the idea that in order to serve and influence others, our concern for them must be genuine. In other words, if we really love people, they will see that, and naturally be changed. All the forced meetings in the world, all the fake smiles, and pained "worshipful" expressions will never have an impact. The only way to really lead is to love. The only way to reach into peoples lives is to genuinely care how they're doing.
Betwixt and between these teaching sessions and the business meetings, we did squeeze in an occasional foray into town. Kromeriz is home to the palace of the Archbishop of Olomouc, as well as several truly beautiful gardens that we had the chance to peruse quickly.

This first set of pictures was taken our first evening. Fortunately by this point I had managed to take a shower. We were given a ten minute break at one point, and knowing I was going to either fall asleep or bite someone's head off if I didn't take a shower and become a real person, I hurriedly did so. I think everyone appreciated that fact.
The rest of the photos were taken the following day when we had a chance to go to the Zamek, or palace, or chateau, whatever word you chose. I wouldn't say there's a perfect expression for these in American English at least, since we really don't have anything like this in our new little country.

I greatly enjoyed being able to wander around the Zamek gardens as well. Here are a few shots of what we were able to enjoy there:

I'll end now with a photo of our little Penzion. It was a pretty nice place to stay and very cute, with lovely little balconies where we sat and ate. Oh, I also wanted to add that in the midst of all the talk about the soul I happened to be reading about the soul in the book How Harry Cast His Spell by John Granger. It was an interesting little comparison to make. In the book he was talking about how Voldemort chose a life of evil, giving up what made him human, in order to embrace a failed attempt at immortality. It actually went really well with what we were talking about, and emphasized the importance of caring for our soul, and feeding it with the truth of God, which is the only thing that can truly give us life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Moving right along

Another week is almost finished, and I'm off traveling once again. This weekend I'm off for the CA retreat. This year it's going to be in Kroměříž. I'm heading out after my class tonight at 8 and taking the train to Prague. I'll meet another teammate there,(the train gets in around midnight) stay the night with her, and then we have to catch an 8AM bus in the morning. I think it takes about four hours to our final destination. Needless to say, I'll be a bit tired from the get go. But such is life.
This year the retreat is an extra day, meaning both that we'll have a little more time for "free time" but also more time for meetings. Kelly's parents are visiting, and her dad is going to be doing some of the speaking at the meeting so hopefully that will be interesting and spiritually helpful. Just in case I've also started a new crocheting project to keep me awake ;)
I've got a busy day ahead with teaching and packing and traveling, so I'd best away. Just thought I should let people know I'll be off the internet probably until Monday. Not sure how I'll manage that, but sometimes that's just the way life goes. At least I've finally started updating here a bit more often. I really am contemplating trying to do the month of posts like my friend Ann has done a couple of times. We'll see if it happens, but I think it would be a good challenge and might even manage to make me stretch in areas of creativity that I've allowed to lapse in days of late. It's a thought at least, but not likely to happen this month :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week Three

My third week back in Czech. Hard to believe it's only been three weeks. It's always amazed me how time can fly and crawl at the same time. There is this strange thing that happens when you live multiple lives. In a sense, it is like time traveling. Not in any sort of supernatural sense, but in the sense that there are these different dimensions that don't fully correlate. When I was home for the summer, I quickly slipped back into the groove of who I've always been at home. It was this safe comfortable ready-made mold that I fit into like bike shorts, a second skin. And while I was there I spent two busy months, flitting about from place to place as if my life in Czech did not really exist. Everything there had it's old sense of being, it's own permanent fixture sort of feel.
And then suddenly all that was, wasn't. I was lifted again from that state of being back into the world in which I am a teacher in a foreign land. A person who is never quite fully a part. But here, too, I have this sense of self and situation. Or at least, I did. Now, it seems, that things are a bit different. And the difference makes the time fly faster, but also makes every moment a bit more profound. It makes me feel I could spend hours in my journal and never be satisfied that I've captured it all. At the same time, there is no time to disappear into my journal in such a dissolving sort of way. Because there are new people to get to know, and old friends to visit. There are classes to be taught, and lessons to plan. And there is still a flat that needs cleaning, and laundry, and cooking. Not to mention the internet that beckons me to come and pour out my soul to those that chose to read what I have opened.
There was a barbecue at a cottage this weekend. Old students and friends assembled, with a handful of newcomers as well. I had to fight the part of me that could scarcely believe Karina, a total freshy in this world, was having her first cottage experience with in the first month, whereas I had to wait nearly two years for my own. It was good to reconnect, to sit around a campfire and let the flickering light mesmerize me, to sing with guitars and drums and insects in the woods.
Life is good you see. There are so many moments to savor, so many experiences to soak up, and so much to be done to be done to be done.
This weekend I'm off for a business meeting in a city I've never been to, and therefore cannot recall the name of. I'm hoping to find it a blessing. Hoping to take the moments, both solitary and in a group, to recollect my thoughts and prepare to better serve and better love. My daily prayer is that I would grow to love the people around me more. To see them through Jesus' eyes. To shuffle off the cloak of selfishness I've long shrouded myself with. It's not always easy to love. Not always easy to sacrifice the comfort of being on my own. But I know it's worth it, because God is love, and whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in Him. And what could be better than that?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Link with Reality

Feeling a little out of touch. A little disjointed and all over the place. I was thinking of lines to write, ways to express my current place in life, in time. Things are going well. I mean classes are all okay. I've made it through the first full week of classes, and now things are starting to fall into place. Students are great and entertaining, and pushing the limits as usual. Let me just say that sometimes asking students to just write down all the parts of the body they know on the board is not the best way to get the ball rolling. Especially when the class is predominately male...hmmm...but such is life. I also made the mistake of handing a low level class a worksheet I'd just pulled off my desk without really looking at. After they'd asked for a couple of vocab words on the sheet, I looked more closely and realized it was the Upper Intermediate version instead of the Pre-Intermediate one I'd meant to give them. Oops. Just goes to show you really do need to pay a little attention when throwing lessons together.
I'm not totally sure why my head is in such a fog. The weather outside is amazing today. I feel the need to soak up every moment in the sun that I can before it goes away and is replaced by the curl-up-in-your-bed-all-day-and-sleep-gray. But the hours fly by and I find it hard to fit everything in. I'm trying to keep on top of things, but obviously it's taken me more than a week to add to my blog, which I really should be keeping on top of better. I'll be needing to get a newsletter out soon, to connect with the greater part of the world. Instead I pine for hours in my journal. The need to express to myself and to God the things I'm trying to think about.
For those who don't know, I have a new boyfriend. It's a first, and it is something unlike anything I've ever experienced in my life. He's Czech, which adds all sorts of elements to things. We come from different worlds, different family backgrounds, different callings to faith. He does love Jesus, and that is a beautiful thing. It is what really pulls us closer together. But there are so many things to figure out and to discuss and to try to make sense of. And it's amazing the sheer quantity of time that being in a relationship takes! I want to spend those spare moments with him that I can, but it's extra difficult because he lives in a different town and we have to rely solely on public transport and momentary scheduling connections. It's really good, but also difficult.
I've also got a new team to try to connect with and make time for. Not to mention my classes, as well as my job as a CA. I've only been back for two weeks and I'm already having trouble seeing how everything will ever balance out and fall into some semblance of solidity.
But I'm happy too. I don't want this to come across as some sort of complaint. It's really not that. It's more an attempt to explain the state of my head as it floats in a cloud of moments that it doesn't totally know how to sort. I think this year has potential to be really great, I just need to figure out how to keep everything in order, to find balance and meaning, as well as a great connection to the Giver of all good things. It's only in His hands that I find strength and understanding.
So it's a beautiful afternoon here in Cheb, Czech Republic. I have a job that I enjoy, a community of friends, and an incredible man who really loves me. How did I fall into this life? Hard to say. All I know is that God remains in control, and that is the only way I'll figure things out!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back to School

Well, classes start up again today. I should really be doing plans, but I'm home briefly, and thought I should bring things up to date. My schedule isn't fully finalized, but it's looking a bit thin. We need to pray in a few more students for daily classes. Right now we only have 18 signed up, which is really low. Last year we had around 30. We are going to open two classes, but at this moment that only puts 6 in L2, which is what I'll be teaching. We could definitely use a few more.
I start teaching tonight. I'm happy that I'll be teaching a lot of the same students from last year. It will be good to get to know them all better. Tonight I have two classes and they're both ones I taught last year so I'm looking forward to seeing my students again. It will be nice to hear how their summers went. I also have plans to be horrible and make one of the classes start right up on testing. I'm such a strict teacher after all. Ha!
It's a beautiful day, and I really should be out drinking up every moment of this glorious sun, but I felt like I really needed to start getting caught up on things like e-mails and blogs that I've let go idle during the summer. Horrible of me, I know. It's hard to get the whole flow of life down again.
I did manage to get new pages for my passport, so I'm legal with my lovely new visa in which I look like I seriously want to kill someone. Honestly, what's up with them not allowing you to smile for photos? It means I end up looking totally disturbed. Ah well. I can only do what they tell me to do.
I think I've mostly gotten over jet lag by this point, but it still wasn't all that exciting to have to get up around 7 this morning. It'll all come with time I'm sure. My roommate still doesn't even have the slightest idea what her schedule is going to look like. Poor girl. I really hope things settle in for her soon. She's had more down time than you can imagine. Or at least more than I can imagine as I've had next to none. But such is life, and being busy is good for my soul.
I do still want to post summer pictures as promised, but it's not likely to happen today. Soon, I promise.