Thursday, December 17, 2009


I AM SOOOO ready for a break. I'm utterly exhausted. Just everything is worn out. I'm tired, I'm emotionally drained, and I'm just so ready to be home for a while where there are no expectations on me. Or if there are, they're ones I've been able to understand my entire life. It will, indeed, be a relief.
Well, I guess there are the wedding expectations, but I'm looking forward to that if I can just figure out how to make my computer properly make a music CD again. It's been a long day.
My heart is also heavy right now, thinking of the Nolan family who lost their daughter, Katie, on Mount Hood this past week. I can't even begin to imagine the sorrow they're experiencing right now. And to have such a tragedy strike at Christmas time just makes the pain all the more intense. It has the ability to make the once joyous holiday season a time of sorrow for years to come. It was a comfort to read the words of her father and to see that, as difficult as it is for them, they're able to rejoice that Katie is in Heaven now, praising her Father there. Imagine celebrating Christmas with Jesus! As I've been thinking so much of her, lost in the snow this past week, the image of her there with Jesus celebrating His birthday gave me a sense of comfort.
I didn't know Katie at all in recent years, but I always had great times with her in the past when we visited their family. I best remember a time when they were living in Klamath Falls and we went to visit them. I can't remember the exact reason that she and I didn't go on a drive with the family, but I remember what a great time we had watching the old Parent Trap movies. They had 1, 2, and 3, and we watched them all, or at least most of them all. We ate chocolate chocolate chip cookies. The type that are rolled in powdered sugar and then get all cracky on top. I'm not sure why this memory is so vivid in my mind, but it has played over and over since Mom first sent me the news that she was missing.
As I read the CNN reports I was very impressed to see all that she has done in the probably close to 20 years since I last saw her. She too traveled the world, and ministered to people in need. Her target was prostitutes, a little different than babies, but it really showed that her heart was totally sold out to Jesus. It's always so hard to understand why God calls home people who are seeking to serve Him and are still so young with so much ahead. But I know His ways are better than ours, His thoughts so much higher.
All I can say is that my heart is really going out to her family right now. May God wrap His arms around them and allow them to see how much He loves Katie and rejoices in her presence with Him in Heaven.
It's late and I really need to sleep. My trip will begin tomorrow afternoon as I head to the airport to stay the night. My flight isn't until 9:40 AM, but there are no trains that leave early enough for me to just go in the morning, so Mark and I get to enjoy Prague airport all night together. It will be nice not to be alone this time at least. And then, 19 or so hours later, I'll be in Portland. What a wonder.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sorry no photos

Just in case anyone was hoping for something more interesting, I'm typing from school today so I don't have access to my pictures. Anyhow, trying to keep ahead of the game here, so I thought I'd send out a little update before I'm off on my big trip home for Christmas.
This week I'm busy trying to wrap up presents and decide what all to take with me on said holiday. It's hard to decide if it's best to try shipping gifts, or just sending them from the US where it might be a bit cheaper. So difficult. I was hoping to get a hair cut in before the big wedding on Sunday, but I'm afraid that's not going to happen either. Still, I've got a few days to pull it all together. Fortunately my classes are mostly just Christmas activities this week, so it's not so stressful. I'm never sure how it will go with my Early Birds class tomorrow, if anyone even shows up, but at least the others should all be fairly straightforward. For example, my FCE class gets to take a test on Wednesday. That's enough to put anyone in the Christmas spirit.
I had a great opportunity to perform in a little Advent concert yesterday. After hearing me sing at the end of the year party, my bosses husband asked if I would sing at the Advent service at a little church he bought and renovated over the past couple of years. It's unfortunate that I don't have the pictures today, but I'll be sure to put some up soon. They're pretty dark, but the place was really lovely. During Communism it was used as bike storage, but now it looks quite nice. Small, quaint, and incredibly picturesque with great acoustics. Karina was my accomplished guitarist and we did two songs. It was pretty incredible to be able to see your breath whilst singing, but we somehow managed to stay warm long enough to make it through our "set." Good thing it was only 2 songs. I sang "Hallelujah," made famous by it's appearance on Shrek, but definitely best covered by Jeff Buckley,and "O Come O Come Emmanuel." Karina filled in some harmony and it was all very pleasant, even if she did also accidentally play the second song a whole note higher than we had practiced it. The first "rejoice" was a bit of a stretch, but I kept telling myself she knew where we'd practiced so it must be the right key. I went with it, and managed to pull it off. When she told me of the little mistake I was definitely glad I hadn't known before hand or I might have been more nervous. All in all, it was a lot of fun.
After we were on a group of special needs adults from a home did a little performance. Tonda, my boss's husband, helps out there and has made friends with them, so he asked them to come as well. They did a little dance to "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" in English, a woman played the recorder, another did a recitation, and then they sang together with a CD. The songs they sang were traditional Czech Christmas songs, so sometimes Mark sang along for me. Great fun.
Two of my students came along as well. There wasn't really any spiritual message or anything, but it was still nice to have them there in the church.
I fly out Saturday morning, so I'm not sure if I'll have a chance to write again, but if not Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year too! Don't know if I can manage 5 posts for December, but I'll give it a go :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Magic Number 5

Gentle Readers,
I see that I have given you cause to doubt my predictability. I've been lax in my dedication to my literary pursuits, and have allowed far to much time to lapse betwixt postings. I do apologize for this most heinous of blunders, and promise it has not been my intention to do you any injustice. It seems that, in my attempts to get everything done, I've managed to let certain things slide. Unfortunately, my blog has been one of the things that has escaped my attention, and fallen into a state of disarray. I'll do my best to make up for it, at least in part, at this juncture. It seems, however, that I seem incapable of making more than 5 entries a month this school year. My dear sister Julie has pointed out to my mother the likelihood that a particular young gentleman has kept me a wee bit distracted, and she is, no doubt, correct in her assumptions. Add to that weekend work retreats, attempts to further the bonds of teamhood, and the ever growing need to purchase Christmas gifts before my scheduled departure from the Czech Republic on the 19th of this very month, and you'll begin to glimpse the magnitude of my distraction. But now, without further ado, I submit to you post one of the month of December 2009.
I have, indeed, been rather busy over the past couple weeks since my last post. As pictures are generally the best way to convey the passage of time and events, I hope to entertain you now with a photo journal of what has gone down.
Several weeks ago, I believe before my last posting even, Mark and I went to check out the cemetery here in Cheb. We spent a long time going through the normal part of the cemetery. It's very well kept, and we were fascinated by the memorials people had created around the urns of their loved ones. During the communist era large concrete structures with little window openings were constructed with windows in front for the urns to be displayed. People can also put in pictures, flowers, or other mementos of the departed. It was sad and curious to see a bit of the life histories represented there.
We then wandered into an unkempt section beyond the regulated section of the cemetery. Here was once a lovely German cemetery, but it is now in total disarray. While this is partly due to the fact that no one has cared for it since the Germans were forced to leave the area at the end of the second world war, it is evident that most of the destruction was man made. As we wandered about the scattered tombstones we could envision young, bitter men, drunk on a mixture of alcohol and resentment, pushing over the markers lovingly placed to remember those who are no more. Most of the stones left standing were those of small children. It seemed as though they'd actually been replaced, and had no doubt been a part of the earlier carnage, but someone with some heart saw just how tragic it was to desecrate the graves of the innocents. It was rather like visiting some old museum that has suffered years of neglect. Somber and curious.

The next entry in this journalistic review is of the lovely cheesecake Karina made in honor of my birthday. The darling maiden slaved for hours in my kitchen (her flat is without a stove) and produced a true masterpiece.

Next we scurry along to the ESI Thanksgiving retreat. This year it was held after real Thanksgiving, which was rather unusual. It was also over Monday and Tuesday instead of Thursday and Friday as usual. It was great to have some more time to spend with Laura, and also to see all the teachers from other parts of Central Europe. One of the highlights was the Bananagrams competition that Laura set up. During her time traveling and visiting teachers she observed the passion for this lovely word game present in the two cities farthest removed in our group. She decided Hope and Deanna Sarospatak (Probably spelled wrong because I have NO expertise in Hungarian save for the word "fogadunk") should take on the Cheb team of Karina and Kathryn from Cheb. It was a seven game challenge, and I'm happy to report that West Bo came through after a game for game competition and won in round 7! Go team!

While the dates may have changed, one thing remains the same: my inability to sleep well on hard beds. True to form, I slept little, and was awake before it was truly sane. And so, in true Sarah fashion, the last day of the retreat, after a whopping five hours of sleep, I went out for an early morning walk and came across these visual gems:

Okay, so I did have to actually pose for a couple of them. It's amazing what a timer can do :) Sadly there was no incredible sunrise on the last morning. I'd seen several lovely ones the mornings before, but it was pretty overcast on Tuesday so I didn't get any shots of glorious pink and orange over the little lake.
Now flash forward to this weekend, and I'll tell you a tale of a devil, an angel and St. Mikolas. Now the past couple of years I've had the chance to observe this holiday from a distance, and to learn a bit about it, but this year was the first time I really got to see it in live action up close and personal.
Mark had hired a professional trio to come and visit his nieces and nephews at his parents' house. Sadly one of his nieces had a birthday party and wasn't able to be there, but watching the almost three year old twins was really the highlight anyway. They all arrived a bit before four and the twins were having a lovely time attacking Mark's bean bag chair. Then at four there was a knock on the door. The boys were very nervous, but excited as well. As the Devil came to them they started to crying and were truly terrified. The story claims that bad little children will be carried away in the devil's bag back to Hell. The devils carry a bag with fake legs hanging out of it to demonstrate this point. So the tears fell, but they didn't run away. They were very brave and when the devil asked for their pacifies they reluctantly handed them over, agreeing that they would now be okay without them. It was quite a moment. They weren't quite steady enough to say a poem or sing a song, but their lovely big sister Nathalie was happy to oblige, and they were rewarded with massive bags of candy which profoundly delighted them, and wiped away all memory of the horrifying devil.

After they were gone we all headed out to the Marianske Lazne Christmas Market. Mark and I had been their earlier in the day, but it was a lot busier and more interesting at night. There were lots of beautiful lights, the scent of mulled wine and fresh sausages in the air, and the sound of children singing Christmas songs. Truly a lovely experience. It was really cold, so Mark's family didn't stay very long, but he and I stuck around and watched an interesting fire show.

We were then more than happy to catch the bus back to his house where it was warm once again. St. Mikolas had also visited us, leaving me with some candy and a lovely new scarf. Quite a day.
So now we're mostly up to the moment. I'm currently trying to finish up my Christmas shopping, get laundry done, and figure out what to take with me for my two week hiatus in America. We'll see if I manage to hit magic number 5 this month or not...