Sunday, January 31, 2010

Feels like a record

Okay, so it's actually not even close to a record, not even for me, but having more than five posts for the month of January is rather refreshing. And in honor of the accomplishment I'm just going to write one more. It's going to be a short one, but it feels good to be so up to date!
I had a three day weekend this week which was nice. Rather refreshing, especially since I won't have any sort of break again until Spring break which is the second week of March. I'm already looking forward to it, as my parents will come for a visit. It's time to really start figuring out what all I'm going to do with them. I think it will all be quite amazing though.
This was a nice weekend. We had our pub night on Friday, so I wasn't able to go anywhere for the weekend like I'd been hoping for. Still, it all worked out for the best. There was a small turnout, but I had a really good talk with my one daily student who came, Tyna, and I met some people who are Czech but have been living in the US for a long time. Turns out they were actually in Moscow, ID in September of all things, and they know someone who works at the University. We were all amazed by what a small world it truly is.
On Saturday Mark's family picked me up and we went together to Plzen to see Avatar in 3D. It really was quite the experience. I must say that it blew Spy Kids 3D out of the water. (yes, that's the only other 3D movie I've ever been to. In my defense, it was with children, a lot of children that I'm related to.) Anyhow, we all enjoyed the movie. It was a little difficult for me to follow everything since it was in Czech, but it's a very visually stimulating movie, so I was at least able to follow most of what was happening. It would be nice to see it again in English so I can fill in all the plot that I missed, but it was still good fun.
Today Mark and I rode with his dad up into the mountains around Marainske Lazne. Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera, but it was definitely a sight to behold. Mark's Dad took some pictures on his phone, so maybe I'll have a chance to add them here later. Anyhow, we greatly enjoyed the drive up there. The trees were so heavily laden with snow that their branches hung down vertically instead of being horizontal. Some of the smaller trees looked like little men with their heads bowed all wrapped up in long white cloaks. Perhaps a spell was cast over them all, or maybe they were merely waiting for a chance to reach out and nab some small unsuspecting passerby.
We walked around for a little while, after having strudel and cappuccinos in a little hunting lodge cafe. They told me that the hunting houses there were actually built in Switzerland and then transported and rebuilt in Czech. Pretty fascinating. Really do wish I'd brought my camera (sigh) I'm scarcely ever without it, but Mark convinced me I didn't need to carry my whole bag...
Anyhow, it was a lovely afternoon and a great weekend over all. Now I'd best move toward bed since tomorrow is Monday and a new month and the beginning of my challenge not to drink Coke for a while. It's been quite popular to do this of late, and I decided that the best way to prove to myself that I really can give up soda is to actually attempt to do so. So February is hopefully going to be a coke free zone at the very least. We'll see how it goes...maybe I'll be able to blog more with less caffeine...and maybe not ;)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thoughts from a train, excerpts for a novel

There are novels out there waiting to be written. Written by me. I know it with certainty, the way few things in life can be known. They're only waiting. Waiting for gaps to be filled in. I've seen things that live in my memory long after they've passed from my direct view. Pictures worth far more than a thousand words. Images that desire to fill in the nooks and crannies of plot. It's only the plot I lack. A way to cohesively tie together all those snapshots of time and space. My life is far from over, and far from an enthralling story. There are far too many endings and new beginnings that seem positively impossible to reconcile together in any sort of natural way. My life is not a book, despite the volumes I've filled attempting to recreate. So here are a few images that are haunting my mind right now...
...the train pulled up to the station blowing snow in massive billows that looked more like smoke boiling up from the wheels, a strange marriage of fire and ice on the tracks...
...there is something seemingly romantic in the idea of a European train. This flies in the face of reason when faced with the practicalities one faces on such a train: toilets reeking of humanity's leavings; graffitied seats with deep indentations from far too many behinds; narrow alleys oft crammed with people and their dream stuffed luggage; the shaking, rocking passage of time cut up by ear splitting screams from metal on metal as towns come and go along with the ceaseless flow of worn out travelers...
...a bushy fox stood silhouetted in the snow, poised between the trees, tail tucked between his legs to preserve heat rather than illicit thoughts of shame...
...the deer bounded across the barren snow covered hills with an exuberance seen only in very young children. Their innocence flew by as the terrain passed on the other side of the window, pulling my eyes back to their glee...
...crossing the trellis into Prague is always a reason to pause in wonder. Even on these blustery days, when foggy fingers conceal the beauty of the castle and dim the view of the Charles Bride and all it's ancient dignity, there are still sights to behold. The swans on the river seem unconcerned with the temperature. Despite the ice that grows around the banks, attempting to still the flowing Vltava River, the swans float gracefully on the black expanse. Their white feathers a sharp contrast to the depths below. And there, floating near them, was a large white easy chair. It was of the overstuffed variety, far more appropriate in an American living room than rocking gently on a European river...
...huddled on the banks of the Ohre the Great Blue Heron attempted to become invisible, one with the barren branches poking up out of the slow drifting water. They've always recalled an older era to me, almost prehistoric in the lines of their gray feathers, long necks, and pterodactyl like beaks...
It's all there just waiting. Waiting for that thrill of inspiration to carry it on to completion. The Tales of a Transient Drifter in hardback copy...what a dream...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An American Breakfast

Few people who know me well would do more than laugh at the thought of me being a cook type person. I'm just not. It's not in my nature. Partly because of perfectionist tendencies. If I've never made something before the probability of a massive FAIL is just to high. We're talking astronomical. There are people who like to say if you can read you can cook. Perhaps there is something to be said for that, but there is also much to be said on the side of, say, natural talent. Not to mention interest.
There was a brief phase in 7th grade when Mom thought it could be...interesting...maybe beneficial, for me to join her on forays in the kitchen. I think it lasted 2 or 3 Friday nights. I mostly remember the time we made pizza from scratch. Did I mention my mom's a wizard in the kitchen? Um, cause she is. And that partly led to the end of these little ventures. You see, it was a whole lot easier for her to make the masterpiece without the meddling little apprentice there to screw the whole thing up. Do you all recall what happened to Mickey when the wizard left him untended for a moment? Yeah. So.
I had to enter the world of domesticity when in Hong Kong. In fact, my first attempt at feeding 15 people involved that same homemade pizza. I told myself over and over that it was true, if you can read, you can cook. I followed Mom's recipe to the best of my abilities. Now, I suppose I should give myself a few honest excuses. Hong Kong and Horse Creek exist in totally alternate realities. There is little comparison between one of the largest, most densely populated cities in the world and Horse Creek, CA population 115 on a good day when all the livestock has had a good breeding season. Hong Kong is located in a tropical climate and is rather ridiculously high on the humidity chart in the middle of summer when this little disaster took place. Horse Creek is located in a mountainous region of Northern California. Through the winter months the sun never shines on the little nook where our house and church nestled up against the mountains. They just aren't the same, and, believe it or not, that causes differences in the ways that cooking happens. There's a reason that there are elevation charts in cook books. All this to say, the crust that was supposed to spread out enough to feed 15 people scarcely covered one and a half pans...
It is true that, in the nearly three years that I lived in Hong Kong my skills got better. I learned how to chop veggies and fruit which led to some truly delightful salads ;) I also mastered the art of vegetarian spaghetti, tacos, French toast, and my mother's biscuits. All rather awe inspiring when you consider the half hour it took me to make 15 minute rice in my Redding apartment because I had to read the instructions so many times. Add rice to bottom of pot. Add twice as much water. Add a little salt. Boil. Keep boiling. Boil some more. When water is gone you're done. Tough people. Seriously tough. (And I'm pretty sure Jessie is still laughing at me 8 years later! Ha!)
Since leaving Hong Kong I've not done much to develop my culinary skills. I became the master of cheese, crackers, and those famous chopped veggies. Not to mention my mean Asian noodle boiling skills. Wild. Simply wild.
Those who've been following my blog for some time know that this summer my family took it upon themselves to improve my domestic qualities. There was a blackberry pie, orange and cinnamon rolls, and numerous dinner helping occasions. Funny how a man comes into your life and suddenly you're expected to be a woman of all things. I mean, I'd always managed to skip out of the womanly duties at family events. Granted, I can clean with the best of them. See, cleaning you can't really screw up. Water, soap, and elbow grease. These are things I can understand. I mean, I was a maid for several summers. (Two to be exact, with an extra month thrown in for bad measure just to remind me that it's a job I'll not likely do again unless the recession means that it's a choice between that, cleaning grease vats, or cleaning out the sewer.) But enough of the asides. I was thrown into the oven, and came out lightly browned on top...well, not exactly.
Basically, after the summer of preparations I came back and haven't done a whole lot with these recently brushed up skills. Sure, I've cooked for Mark a few times, but not enough to really make it look like I've at long last become the cook type person that my mother may of dreamed that I could be. Instead, we've eaten out a lot, or had my now famous open-faced sandwiches (shades of Great Harvest).
This week, however, I've had a little extra time. You see, last week my colleague decided that it was perfectly all right for him to ditch out on a week of school. Yes, that's right. Just two weeks after our Christmas holiday he took off for a week to ski in the Alps with a couple of students. Now, perhaps this would be all right at a normal school. You know, one in which there are a full staff of teachers who can wiggle their schedules around and fill in a class or two here and there. But at are school there are 3 full time teachers. That's right, 3! So when one of those is missing that means the other two of us have a LOT of slack to pick up. We even had to call in some extra help, which is scarcely heard of in a country where they don't have substitute teacher hot lines. (One more side note: I have to confess that it's nearly impossible to help students figured out compound nouns. The truth of the matter is, were it not for spell check I'd constantly make errors. Sure, I know that fire engine has to be two separate words, but fire man and fireman both look perfectly all right to me. The only way I know that it really is just one word absolutely for certain is the fact that when I type in fireman there is no squiggly line underneath it, unlike when I just typed in hotline as one word and there was one. End Side note.)
So this week Jonathan has to fill in some extra morning hours for me. That meant time for my mind to think again on the culinary arts. The result? I made mint chocolate chip cookies for Mark on Monday. Well, I mixed up the dough Monday afternoon and then cooked them up Tuesday morning so they'd be ready in the afternoon when I went to see him in his town. They turned out fabulous this time. Quite a relief after the disaster cookies I tried to make my students last year. Those ones ended up puddles. Seriously, it was not a pretty picture. I ended up shoving the rest of that dough into a pie pan and trying to convince them that it was now a bar cookie and they really should give it a try. Ugh! But this time they came out beautifully. Sadly I didn't get a picture, but I saved some of the dough and plan to cook up some more so we can have fresh hot ones with our team time tonight so maybe I'll snap a picture of those.
After this baking high note, I felt prepared for the next step. You see, unbeknownst to me my colleagues decided that today, Wednesday the 27th of January, would make a lovely day for a ski trip. I. Don't. Ski. Period. Yeah, I tried it. Once. Last year. And it's going to stay at once thank you very much. So they decided, again this was ALL done without me, that I could do something with the students who weren't interested in skiing. They'd offered up swimming. Um. It's January people! And I don't really swim either. Allergic to chlorine, remember? But at least it sounded a bit better than skiing.
I, on the other hand, thought up an alternate activity. So on Friday, when trying to sell the idea of watching a movie with me and being nice and warm, rather than freezing cold (consequently today is the coldest day of the year so far. Jarmila informed me it was -20 C on her farm this morning. That's cold. We're talking snot freezing cold.) I added that I would also take them to my house for the movie, and would serve an American breakfast. (So I accidentally just wrote sever instead of serve. Good thing I caught it since spell check would have been okie dokie with that little slip up.)
Now I didn't win over the whole crowd, but once the words had come out of my mouth, those who didn't want to ski sunk their claws into them and I was stuck in the promise. And so, today, I pulled out my mom's award winning biscuit recipe. Okay, so she never actually entered her biscuits into a county fair, but she could have. These biscuits are the reason I didn't starve as a child at potlucks. To say that I was picky as a child would be the understatement of the new millennium. Many apologies to all the people whose homes I entered only to turn my nose up at their gracious edible offerings. I think sometimes I was the bane of my parents existence at social calls. Here people invited the pastor and his family over to dinner only to have their adorable little girl turn into a demon at the table. At least I never threw up at other peoples' houses...
Anywho...I was an olive on every finger, deviled egg, and jello eater at potlucks. Good for the figure I suppose, but when you're 5 no one really thinks about that. They're more concerned that you aren't getting your four food groups. Thankfully Mom's biscuits always came to the rescue. She'd usually slip out of church just as we were all singing "Bless be the tie that binds..." and hurry to the house to throw the biscuits in the oven. She'd bring them down, piping hot, and be rushed by the frenzy. There were never any left over. Truth be told, they seldom even made it to the food table. People rushed to get at them and devour every last golden morsel. They were rather like the manna that rained down from Heaven. At least the first few days when the Israelites were still being thankful. Truly a blessing.
So I pulled out the recipe this morning, as I said before, and set about making these show stopping favorites. I mixed up the dough and then had to go to school to pick up my students. I didn't want to cook them in advance, since fresh is DEFINITELY the way to go. I rushed through the cold, watching my breath turn my hair gray as it froze immediately, after leaving my biscuit dough in the closet which is substantially colder than the rest of our flat.
I collected a grand total of three students. Honestly, that was the sort of number I was hoping for. My house isn't exactly designed for crowds. We headed back to my house with a disappointing stop at the not yet open video store. I had three L1s in tow, that means three people who really don't speak English. They're getting a lot better, but for the most part I had to scrape together what I know of Czech to follow what they were saying as we walked. Not that it was all that hard. I'm sure most people who speak English and not Czech would be able to figure out that "autobus" and "taxi" relate to modes of transport other than feet. Clearly the ten minute walk was not to their liking in this Antarctic climate. But we did make it, and I made them fruit tea to warm them up while the biscuits were cooking. The closet did it's work and kept it from turning into a fluffy monster whilst I was away. Twenty or so minutes later I had them seated at my table with a glorious spread.

Mom's biscuits did it yet again. They all sang the praises, and I knew it was the excellent recipe and not any ability of mine that could have pulled it off. We then watched Twilight which one of my other students had brought to me a couple months ago, because it was the only DVD I had with Czech subtitles. They seemed to enjoy that as well, so it all worked out.
American Breakfast.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Okay, I know, talk about a lack of originality. But it seems the best title for this particular entry. You see, snow has descended on this land in which I live. In a rather serious way really. There is snow pretty much everywhere.
It's a different kind of snow than I'm generally used to. Growing up in Northern California we would get these massive heavy flakes that would fall fast and build up in big puffy waves. It was a dense sort of snow, great for building snowmen and sledding down the hill behind our house. Dad and I made a snowman that was more than 6 feet tall once. He stood in the parking lot by the church for weeks, propped up on an old wooden shovel handle as his heavy body slowly began to slump and shrivel. It was also excessively cold there, so we had years when the snowfall was short, but the frost would grow inches in the background, causing a white Christmas regardless of actual precipitation.
In Oregon the snow was always wet. We didn't get a lot of it, and it usually just froze over making the roads impassable. We'd have school cancellations on account of an inch of snow covered in sheets of icy treachery.
Can't say there was any snow to speak of in Hong Kong. Apologies to my friend Derek who commented on his facebook page the other day that it was bitterly cold in Hong Kong. Even when the temperature got as low as 4 degrees Celsius (about 40 Fahrenheit) it wasn't exactly bone chilling. Main problem there was that it never got warm in our house, so we were as cold indoors as out.
Alaska...there's another story all together. The snow was also generally pretty heavy in my way of looking at it. The flakes were often quite large, and fell quick fast and in a hurry like. Contrary to Oregonian precedents, two feet of snow weren't enough to get schools to even have a delay.
Here in Czech, the snow is really dry. I know that sounds strange, but it's of a totally different quality than snow I've experienced in other places. Now I'm not like an Eskimo with 40+ words for snow, but this is definitely snow of a different caliber. The flakes tend to be smaller, and swirl about in the slightest of breezes. It can really pile up, but it isn't really the sort of snow that's ideal for making snowmen. In fact, you can kick this snow. I know, I know, that sounds really bizarre, but it's true. Just kick and scatter it. Walking in it is more like walking in sand. It sticks to you and pulls your feet down. It's the strangest stuff.
After a few days of constant foot traffic it turns into the muckiest slush you can imagine. It does begin to get wet then, and turns brown and muddy, almost like a snowy paste. So while it makes the trees and rooftops all peaceful and romantic looking, the paths which I must tread are just plain nasty.
This past weekend I had to go into Prague for a CA meeting and to do some mid-year reflections. The Mid-years are really one of my absolutely favorite parts about being a CA. They're a time when I can really sit down and get to know the people in my team, and try to encourage them as they process what they've experienced thus far and what their future plans are going to be. Anyhow, it was snowing when I arrived in Prague on Friday night, and it proceeded to snow the whole time I was there. I'd seen a skiff of snow over the city a couple of times in winters past, but nothing in comparison to this. I'm always amazed by how the entire landscape changes in it's wintry coat of white fluff. I took great delight in my chances to run around taking photos of the grand structures of this magnificent city in their winter finery.

I'll end now with a little something to warm you all up on these bleak January days...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Christmas Stateside

I have to say it was truly a blessing to be able to be home for the holidays this year. It had been a long time since I was able to celebrate with my parents, and it was definitely time. I really enjoy hearing Czechs talk about their Christmas traditions, and then telling them about mine. It is one of the times when I really get to talk about what is meaningful to me during the holiday. I must admit that there are a lot of times when I don't exactly feel like a missionary. When I worked with orphans it was all so obvious. I was helping the fatherless. I was giving them love, and caring for their most basic needs. But here? In Europe? What am I really doing?
If there was someone out there calculating how useful a ministry is, they would no doubt look for numbers and statistics of conversions, or even of clearly spiritual conversations. And in truth, were someone to do that with my ministry, they would come out with ridiculously low numbers. We won't talk about how ridiculous, but in so much as evident results are concerned it would be negligible. And yet I don't feel like my time here is wasted. Quite the contrary in fact. The way I do ministry it's doubtless never going to have dramatic results, but I honestly hope that the people I come into contact with are able to feel that I really do care about them. If nothing else, I hope they're able to see that my heart belongs to Jesus, and that through His love I come to love them. I'm sure I'd fail to pass mission board questions about how I intend to dramatically effect the people I come into contact with. I've never been the type to force issues, or make people talk about things they aren't comfortable with, but I try to offer them a friendly smile and an open heart. A place they can turn to. I'm not sure if it works, but I do believe it is worthwhile, and that God has had me in this place for the past three years in order to be that friend to my students. I don't know how this will look in the future. I won't hold my breath for future letters telling me the impact I had on their lives, and how I turned their hearts to Jesus, but I do want to continue praying for them, even after I return to the states. I do want to continue to love them, and I know that God is able to speak to the needs of their hearts and to bring me to mind if they ever want to talk about these things.
I guess recently I've just been thinking a lot about my purpose here, and how effective what I'm doing truly is, and when I took this moment to write, it all sorta came out. I'm the last person to write a book on how to reach the nations, but my heart is true in desiring to reach out to be people God puts in my life.
That being said, I love having the chance at Christmas to tell them how my favorite thing about Christmas is being with family and thinking together about how amazing it is that God sent His son at Christmas. I also tell them of our traditions on Christmas Eve (they're always really excited that my family celebrates on the 24th like they do here) and how I love the time we spend singing Christmas Carols and reading the Christmas story. They all quietly accept the things that I say, and only freak out when I tell them that we generally eat Pizza for Christmas dinner on paper plates. I tell you, it's the quickest way to get at the presents, and when you have a crew of excited kids bouncing off the walls, easy cleanup is a MUST!

This year at Christmas we had quite a few craft projects that we did as well. It's interesting to see how Julie's creativity has increased since she became a mother. We had some laughs over her childhood art and craft attempts, but this year she was the one who had us doing things like making these colorful snowflake decorations. We gave the yellow snowflake to David...
We also decorated about a bazillion sugar cookies. It brings back recollections of my Grandmother and her classic cookies. We followed her recipe and while they were really good, they'll never quite compare to her fabulous treats. She just always had a way of making things turn out better. Sort of like when she would come to visit in my childhood, and despite spending endless time cleaning the house prior to her arrival, she'd always manage to somehow make it look better in a matter of minutes after entering the house. Magical.

And now, for a small competition and an attempt people to actually comment on my blog, I'll ask which of the little sugar cookie men is the best...
Being the poser that I am no post would be truly complete without a portrait. Here I am with our lovely Christmas tree, made marvelous because my mother is a decorating genius. Despite the fact that every year she ceases to be completely happy with the chosen tree, she always manages to turn it into a work of art. So here I sit, along with before and after shots of the presents underneath.

The whole time I was home was really a blur. There were games with the kids, conversations with sisters, shopping trips, and endless treat making. We even managed to have a lefse day, which made me really excited. I hadn't had lefse since Christmas in 2005! That's a long time ago. Although I learned that Cheryl got a lefse griddle this year, so if I do Christmas in Alaska again we can do things differently ;) It was all pretty magnificent. For those not aware of the wonder that is lefse, it's a Norwegian treat that everyone should have an opportunity to experience. They're kind of like tortillas, but they're made with potatoes, and you butter and sugar them and then roll them up into a sweet melty delicacy. Upon returning to Czech I happened to mention to Karina that we'd had lefse and she turned a little green with envy seeing as how she's also of the lefse eating tradition. Basically, once it becomes a part of your life you never want to let it go...

Some other highlights of the trip:
Getting to finally meet Peaches, the fabulous one dollar horse that has finally made Julie's lifelong dream come true.

Seeing David for the first time in 2 and a half years. There were some complications with his pass at first, but in the end it worked out so we were able to pick him up on the 30th and spend as much of New Year's Eve with him as possible. He always has an agenda, so it wasn't exactly all family all the time, but it was still nice to see him again, all safe and sound. As you can see, I seemingly shrink every time I'm around my nephews. You know, there was a time when they were all little babies in my arms. Crazy what a few years can do!

And now I'll end this post with a little sisterly love. It's rather blurry, which is unfortunate, but it's definitely a large part of what this holiday was all about :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Julie is married!!!

First task on the list for this year's Christmas break: make it to Julie's wedding.
That might not sound very difficult. I mean, I bought the tickets, I packed my bags, I took the train to the airport the night before my flight and "slept" there, so you'd think that it would follow quite easily that once I was through security I'd have no trouble getting to the wedding. Of course, if you really think this way then you've probably never flown anywhere. Especially not internationally.
After saying goodbye to Mark in the security line I hurried to my gate and looked at my boarding passes. Now I've always known that the departure time and boarding time are not exactly the same, but generally I'd expect when you order tickets they'll offer you flights that you can actually make. This time, however, as I looked at my tickets I realized that my arrival time was ten minutes after I was supposed to begin boarding my next flight. Having never flown into the Warsaw airport I had no idea if I would be able to make such a tight schedule, and when our flight was delayed by ten or twenty minutes my worries escalated. Fortunately, there were at least ten or twelve other people on my current flight booked on the same flight to Chicago, and it was the same airline, Polish Air LOT. All the same, I was nervous, and spent the whole flight reminding myself that God is in control and I am not and there was nothing I could do in the meantime. To make matters worse, we were on one of those little planes that they land far from the gates and then you have to take a bus to get to the terminal, so even though we were first off the plane we had to wait for everyone else to get off anyway.
You should have seen the group of us running through the Warsaw airport. We pushed it for sure, rushing through passport control and through security to get to our gate, only to discover our next flight had been delayed so we were in good order.
The good things about this fact:
1.)We got on the plane
2.)Our luggage also had a chance to make it on the plane.
The not so great things about this:
1.) Our plane left about an hour after it was scheduled to leave.
2.)The two hours I was supposed to have between landing and boarding in Chicago were reduced to about an hour.
Now an hour might be enough time in general between flights, but this was an international flight. That means that, after arrival we had to reclaim our bags, go through customs, recheck our bags, go on a train to a totally different terminal (mine was the farthest possible from my starting point) go through security once again, race from the front of the terminal through the underground passage and then to the far end of the terminal. Needless to say I was a bit out of breath. Especially since my luggage didn't arrive until the 3rd little burst or bags which had about a five minute delay in between. All the same, I did make it to my flight on time. It too, had been briefly delayed. Sadly it wasn't delayed quite long enough for my bags to show up in Portland when I did arrive at last. (sigh)
It was great to be greeted by Janet, Ryder, Tyler and Jack at the baggage claim from which I did not claim any baggage. After filing my claim and giving them the address of the hotel I was going to be staying at we continued out of the airport and off to Taco Bell, my joyous return to stateside dining ;)
My first night back in the US was spent at a lovely Salem hotel, no doubt the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in, celebrating Julie's last night as a single woman. It was nothing crazy, but it was great fun to be with her and Jessie and a few of her other close friends. Jessie went home for the night, seeing as she has motherly duties to attend to, and the rest of us talked until around 2 AM. So crazy to think that little Julie, who I have had the privilege to know since she was 14 and sometimes the annoyance of knowing from the age of 6 (ha ha ha) is now a married woman. What an amazing thing. I've seen her grow up from the little six year old who bit me into a truly amazing woman who I am blessed to call my friend and little sister.
I woke up around 6 and went down to see if my bag had, indeed, arrived. Sadly it wasn't there. After a call to United, they assured me it would be there by 11 (which was consequently when we needed to check out of the hotel.) We had a lovely breakfast in the hotel, and then people started getting ready for the day. My bag did show up around 9, so I was able to have a dress to wear to the wedding after all. Jessie came back to join us and then we headed over for Julie's hair appointment. Then it was off to Jefferson, with a stop at Dutch Brothers on the way where I got a most scrumptious candy cane mocha.
The wedding was a truly lovely affair. I was there for all the hug support that Julie needed, as well as checking on little details, like placement of corsages and boutonnières, making sure that the mix of music I made for the event was ready to be played, adjusting the blanket and petals for Citlati and Dylan's wagon, and telling people to head on inside so we could get things started. It all turned out fabulously.
The wedding was lovely, and the reception was a lot of fun. Janet and the boys were there as well so we sat together and just enjoyed the festivities. I helped with some of the clean up, then we headed back to McMinville where I crashed out by 9.
Here are a few pics to commemorate the occasion.

I give you the happy couple: Chad and Julie Granum!


So I rather made a mess of December. Only three posts. Truly tragic. (sigh) I'll do my best to see to it that January makes up for it. Well, at least a bit. It's snowing here in Cheb as I write this. Big fluffy flakes are lazily drifting from a white/gray sky. Snow sky is always such an interesting color. It's like you can just see all those flakes holding the clouds together until they can gently be shaken out. We have quite a bit of snow on the ground here already. It makes the trek to school softer, prettier, and more treacherous. Still haven't fallen here, although I did fall on my hike up to Kelly's place this weekend. It's lovely out in a sense, but I can't say that the thought of going out in it and walking all the way to my Czech class is overly appealing at the moment. Ah well. This is getting me nowhere. So I've decided to do this post in several sections. I think I'll start off this one with some pictures that I should have posted before Christmas. So maybe this will be quite short, and then I'll do more for the next post. It just makes sense to type them in different sections even if I try to get a few done today. So here are some pictures from my little advent concert in the church in Hazlov.

I'm going to attempt to add a video now. I had a lot of trouble the last time I did this, it took forever, but I'm going to give it a go, and if it doesn't work then this little bit of the note will disappear.

Okay, it's trying to upload it now, so I hope it will all work out. It's not overly exciting, just a bit of my singing. For the mother and all. I don't think I showed it to her when I was at home, so this one's for her.
Now I've just got a couple shots from our last day of class before break. We had a little Christmas party with our daily students, and in my section they had to create a Christmas card. None of them ended up really looking like Christmas cards, but they all seemed to have a good time, which is what matters ultimately :)

I think the mobile was my favorite one. They've definitely got some creativity.
And so I finished up the school year and headed off on my way. I figure it's best to leave things in Cheb in one section, and then move on to my time at home in a separate accounting. Well, I've a feeling that the video didn't work, but I just can't spend my entire day waiting for it to go through. So I'll publish as is for the moment, and maybe try again some other time. There honestly must be a better way to make it work, because I know other people publish videos all the time, but I seem rather hopeless at it. Ah well.