Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And March is over...

Well, it seemed rather as though March was over before it even began. Sort of how it goes when you have a two and a half week visit in the middle as well as Spring Break. Those exhausting days seem to evaporate even as they take every last iota of energy. It was great having Mom and Dad here, and now I'm gearing up for Malin to arrive this evening. I have a load of pictures to add and stories to recount, but that will probably take a while seeing as how I'm also dramatically behind on my journal writing. Funny how life doesn't like to slow down in order for me to take stock of it all.
Anyhow, Mom and Dad are safely back stateside and seem to have really enjoyed the chaos here as well. I did my best to pack every moment with something, and they took it all in stride, much to the surprise of my students who made comments like, "They're the age of my grandparents! I can't imagine my grandparents traveling like that." Or "You still drive??? At your age???" Good times for certain. They made quite a splash in my little world, and also impressed them by the evident fact that, after all these years they're still very much in love. What a great illustration for the people here to see.
Of course, for me, the most important thing was having them meet Mark. I was really thankful that they all got along so well together. It was amazing to bring these two parts of my life together and seeing how they would all relate. And it went great, despite the fact that several things Mark had carefully planned ended up being closed for no apparent reason. What a frustration. But since Mom and Dad had no real plans or expectations they were able to roll with it and just enjoy everything that came their way.
So on that note here are a few photos to whet your appetite for more. The first few are from our first trip to Marianske Lazne where Mark really had a great chance to play tour guide and to introduce them to his home.

These next few are from their first visit to a castle. I was afraid that all the castles here would be close, but miraculously Loket castle, which is actually one of my all time favorites, was open, so I had great fun showing them around, as well as letting them get a taste of the creepy dungeon :)

So great to finally be able to show them around this place that has been such a huge part of my life over these past three years. Good times for sure.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maminka a Tata je tady!

Well, I should probably be heading off to bed, but I've decided to do a quick post. I'll be sure to put up better updates later on, but for now I just thought I'd share a few pictures of the trip thus far. Mark and I picked Mom and Dad up from the airport in Prague on Thursday and made sure they had a good traditional Czech meal their first night. Mom had KnedliVeproZeli (Dumplings, Pork and Sauerkraut) and Dad tried some Cesky Gulas with bread dumplings. Good way to start them off.

Friday morning we hauled all the luggage to the train station and headed off for Dresden. Unfortunately no one told the weather that it was supposed to be nice and sunny. I mean, we even stayed at the Sunshine Hostel (once we managed to find it) but we were still followed by ugly gray skies and dripping cold weather. We've been followed by a mixture of rain and snow since they arrived. Not the ideal weather for traipsing about Europe, but such is life.
We had a great time in Dresden all the same, and enjoyed taking in the sights. I'll just toss on a few photos here to give a sampling of the amazing things we saw.
These first two photos show us posed by Martin Luther with the amazing backdrop of the Frauen Kirche. Almost completely destroyed on Valentine's Day 1945, it has only recently been rebuilt to reflect it's former glory. We were all most impressed.

We saw pictures where Martin Luther was on the ground, completely separated from his feet. Pretty crazy.
Here's one of me and Mom on the S bahn, and a really lovely one of some dried hydrangeas. Mom really liked the flower one, so I made sure to post it here for her :)

And now I'll just close with a few shots of the town. It's a pretty impressive city with a very interesting history. Amazing how the people have finally been able to rebuild.

We headed back to Cheb on Sunday, with a very lengthy complicated train ride, and today I took Mom and Dad out to Sokolov where we picked up a rental car so hopefully our travels will be a bit easier and more predictable. The only problem now is figuring out where to park. It can be a bit complicated. I've left Mom and Dad sleeping at Tammy's place, and now I'm off to get a few zzzzs before tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Reason

There's a very good reason that I don't live alone. It's because I go crazy when left alone with myself for too long. Three days is just way too much. Okay, if I have a good purpose for alone time it's one thing, but when I'm alone just because no one else is around...just not healthy.
I remember when I spent a few days alone at Bethany House on Cheung Chau. It was really wonderful. So refreshing to have time to just be on my own, to think, to pray, to walk around the beautiful island, doing my best to avoid the spiders . Unfortunately if you look at the link there isn't really any context for just how huge these things are, but believe me, when you look up and suddenly realize there are webs larger than your body hanging everywhere around you, with spiders that have bodies about 5 inches long, you really understand how disconcerting these frightening things can be. But when I was there I had a purpose. I also had lovely warm weather. I was alone because I wanted to be alone.
This week I've been alone for far longer than is healthy for me. I've been able to keep myself busy enough, but I really need human interaction to be healthy. I actually feel like I have a cold coming on, and I blame it directly on being alone. Normally people get sick from being around too many people, but despite illnesses flowing through my house frequently all year, I've only had one small cold all year. And yet now, when I'm alone, I feel like it's catching up with me. Horrible timing considering that my parents will be here tomorrow! I'm definitely ready for them to arrive and for some exciting things to take place.
I guess part of the problem is that when I sit around alone for too long I start to feel sorry for myself. I think about how everyone else is with other people. I think of how on my last two spring breaks I went on fantastic trips to London and Berlin. And then I start spending way too much time on facebook and dreaming of distant destinations and all the people I haven't seen in ages.
Clearly I need to get out of time and have a little excitement soon soon soon!
Okay, enough ranting. Time to try to motivate myself to find something to do with my time. Maybe I should start looking for jobs in Idaho...and maybe not...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Two days to MD day!

No, that doesn't stand for "medical doctor" silly people. It means two days until my parents arrive in the Czech Republic! I'm super excited about it. Seems to be that third year's the charm. Only a couple days after Mom and Dad fly back to the US, I'll be joined by amazing Swedish friend Malin for Easter weekend, and a little bird told me that Julie's passport is in the mail with intentions for a May visit! The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned. I'm just so thankful that they're all able to come and share a little bit in the life I have here. Plus, I love them all so much and so I'm super excited to have some time with them too!
My house is now totally spic and span. I've got the place to myself as everyone else has cleared out for Spring Break. Yesterday I did a top to bottom deep cleaning. Merry Maids and the Maids would be proud of my ability to remember their wise teaching. Top to bottom, left to right, I gave this place the works, even scrubbing the shower doors that I don't think have seen the wrath of a sponge...ever...Amazing what it's like when you can actually see through them! So maybe that last statement reflects a bit poorly on me, but I've scrubbed everything else in this house quite a few times. They just never seemed to be as frighteningly dirty as they really were :)
Anyhow, the place looks fabulous. I don't like walking barefoot as a general rule, but I've had to do it a few times just to appreciate fully how clean my floors are. I even washed all the little area rugs and my comforter. We're talking squeaky clean.
This has to be one of the most boring blogs ever. Am I seriously updating the "world" on my spring cleaning? Um, yep, sorta looks like I am.
In other news, I've started writing "something." That means something that isn't in journal, blog, or e-mail form. Mark was literally jumping up and down when he realized what I was doing. He's been after me for ages to "prove it" and now I'm seeing if I can do just that. Wow, I've used a frightfully large number of quotation marks in this piece, and yet not included a single dialogue. Of course, it would be a little scary if I was doing dialogues right now considering that I've been alone in my house for the past two days. Other than a few phone calls, I'm left with only the sound of my own voice. Let's just say Mark's going to get an earful when I go to his house tomorrow night! That will be three days of pent up conversations streaming out in a jumble. I hope he's enjoyed this time of solitude!
It seems the month of March is already over. I've reached my 5 post line, and once Mom and Dad arrive I know the time will just fly. I've got my students working on some great projects for them. They're all making travel brochures about the Czech Republic which they will present and then give to my parents. That way they get a new type of English practice, and my parents will know a bit more about this country without me having to come up with any facts on my own :)
And with that I'll close, making no promises of a reappearance during the family visit.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring is in the air...

Which means it's snowing again. Ugh. I was definitely done with snow. And today, to make it all even more special, it was snowing out of clear blue sky. How does that possibly make sense? But such is life.
I've been dreaming more and more of Hong Kong lately. I know, probably not the best/healthiest thing to do. Especially when it's all cold and dreary here. Maybe it's partly because my parents are coming and the last time they visited me I lived in Hong Kong. That's right, it's been like 6 years since my parents last visited me. Okay, that might not be totally fair. They did stop by my place in Salem, which was only like 5 years ago. :)
Anyhow, I have my students all set up to make lovely travel brochures for them. It will give them a chance to do something a bit different with their English skills, and will create something nice for my parents. This way I don't have to freshen up on everything in order to be a stellar travel guide. At least that's the hope. To help them with ideas I created my own brochure of Hong Kong. I think it was very persuasive, and going through pictures of HK on the internet definitely added to the nostalgia. I really miss that place. I wonder if some day I'll pine for Cheb. Somehow I rather doubt it. But one never really knows about such things.
The main reason I decided to write this blog today, however, wasn't to talk about Spring (or the lack thereof) or to bemoan the fact that I'm not in HK at the moment. It was to share a selection of pictures of the new and improved me. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch, but I did get my hair done yesterday. I figured that the coming of my parents was a good time to update the do. Generally speaking, an international visit from the parents means there will be a myriad of photos taken, and I wanted to be sure not to have the hrosny vlasy (that's horrible hair in Czech, the very words my hair stylist used when looking at my hair and thinking I wouldn't understand that much or the language) that I've been suffering with for the past several months. I knew it was bad, I just wasn't quite sure how to fix it. Ah well.
There's been a marked improvement made for the time being. Granted, dye usually starts to fade within the first week on my hair, but hopefully it'll stick around for a while. Jarmila thinks I just need to stop washing it so much. But I have such a hard time doing that. I did, however, put a plastic bag over my head so I could still have a shower and yet maintain the stylists hard work this morning. It was a red and white striped bag by the way. Yes. Yes I did look like a pirate. But the final picture shows that it mostly worked out okay.

And, yes, I agree with you all. I might not be quite up to the responsibility of owning a digital camera. Where did I ever become such a blasted poser? I blame Hong Kong...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On the ball

but it just keeps bouncing...
Ever had the sort of day when you feel like you should be getting things done, you have the time, you have the need, you're even moving, but still it doesn't seem like anything is happening.
I'm having one of those days.
I can see these long lists of things that are somehow supposed to magically come together, but I can't exactly figure out how to make that happen. My wheels are just spinning and spinning, the sun is shining, and nothing is happening.
I think, "I can write e-mails." But I don't.
I think, "I can look up activities to do with my parents." But I don't. There are still a few days before they arrive. It will all iron itself out.
I think, "I could go for a walk in this lovely sunny weather." But I realize that when I walked home from work today it was cold. And there are those things I'm supposed to be doing, right???
I think, "it's about high time I finish the book I've been reading since Christmas." But there are still so many pages, and I should be accomplishing things, right? And reading doesn't really count as accomplishing things now, does it?
I think, "I could start the cleaning process so that things look pleasant when my parents arrive." But I know that the dust bunnies will multiply prolifically between now and then, and I already have plans to clean on Monday.
Then I find myself looking at Visa applications but not really knowing what to do with them. And I think about jobs in the future, but haven't the slightest clue where to start, just like every time I think about future jobs. Haven't had the best track record with finding jobs anyway.
Hmmm...Maybe I'm just becoming a big whiner. Secretly, all I want to do right now is curl up in front of another episode of the Gilmore Girls. Just so I can sit in on someone else's frustrating issues rather than trying to figure out the answers to mine. (sigh)
Well, at least I've managed to post another blog. That's certainly got to count for something in the grand scheme of things. Although I doubt there's a book deal anywhere in the stuff I toss up here. I'm supposed to be writing for real, and yet that dream seems far from any sort of fruition.
Yes, officially a whiner. Pa-Thet-Ic!
But there really truly is blue sky outside. So why hasn't it settled in my brain? I'm ready for breezy summer days and lighter layers of clothes. I'm ready for green grass and flowers, the sound of birds and a new found motivation.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Double Duty

Yep, that's right, two posts in one day. In fact, I'm writing this immediately after finishing the one previous. But I didn't really feel like that one needed anything else added to it. Rather a stand alone sort of piece, rather than something to tag photos onto the end. So I'll throw the photos on here. (Nearly said I'd throw the photos up here, but thought maybe the vomiting visual might be a bit much. Naturally, as I've now said it anyway I'm not sure if it was much use not to just put it. Ah well.)
This past weekend was a busy one. While the lovely clear blue skies of Thursday didn't last out the entire weekend, the feeling of Spring is still here to stay. Or so I keep telling myself. But just check out this view from Thursday. Fabulous, simply fabulous!

I also feel the need to add this picture as well. I was just so amused by how the shadow of the branch totally looked like a squirrel!

I think I can safely say that Pub Night on Friday was the smallest one ever. There were possibly 15 students that showed up over the course of the night. Two of them were actually students from my first year. It was really great to see Martin, who has been in Australia for the past year and a half. Some of his other classmates were supposedly going to come, but the only ones who showed up were Kristyna, who wasn't actually in my class that year, and Henry who seldom misses a pub night due to his insatiable thirst for inebriation.

I spent most of my time talking to Marketa and Tyna, two of my daily students from this year. They're great fun, and it's really nice to see how their English is improving from the beginning of the year. Marketa confessed that when she first started she felt like she really didn't know any English at all, but now she's really getting more and more into it. I adore them both and thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them, as well as cheering with them as we watched a Czech girl win the bronze medal in the slaloms. They laughed a lot at me cheering "Vyborne Sarka! Vyborne!" Good times.

I was good and didn't stay out very late because I had to be at the train station before 8 the next morning. Saturday I had another CA meeting in Prague, so off I went, bright and early, heading for the big city. It was a long day, but nice as well. I do enjoy CA meetings, and the chance it gives to pray for the people on our team, and to think of ways to better encourage them in what they're doing here. And here's a random sight from outside Kelly's house. Just had to throw this one in ;)

Can't say I'd ever seen a caviar truck before, and can't say that I particularly ever want to see one again. So...yeah.
Sunday morning, I opted for a little private and personal time. I curled up in Starbucks with a steamy cup or gooey caramel covered coffee, a 180 podcast on my ipod and a view of fantastically beautiful Art Nouveau hotels across the street. Pretty great way to start a day if you ask me!

Love it!

Psalms of Ascent

I've been doing a Bible study this year by Beth Moore. I've often found that it's easier for me to go deeper into God's word if I have some sort of guide to follow. So often when I read over the familiar words on the pages of the Bible my mind drifts. Rather than seeing the deeper truths, rather than letting the words saturate my heart, I find myself doing it more for the sake of doing it, for remaining in the discipline, rather than really finding anything life changing on the pages.
I've really been enjoying this particular book that I've been using. Partly because at the end of each unit there is a little creative writing segment. The goal is to rewrite the Psalm that has been studied into a more personal format. When I went on Teen Missions back in 1996 (scary long time ago) each member of the team was responsible for leading Bible study at least once during the summer. Being the person I've always been, I opted to take a Psalm and paraphrase it, then I had all my teammates do likewise with a really short Psalm. Not sure if it was right up all their alleys, but they did it all the same and I enjoyed myself. Therefore, I've been quite excited to have the opportunity to do the same thing with these studies. I'm not trying to say I've created a new translation in the process of putting things into my own words. I've just made it all sink a little deeper into my head by going through the study and adding my feelings into the words.
I think the Psalms are the best part of the Bible to do this with. While it can be helpful to look intensely into what is being said everywhere in the Bible, the Psalms are the most human part of God's word. They're the place where man gives vent to his thoughts, frustrations, hopes, dreams, and innermost feelings. The psalmists poured everything into this beautiful poetry. Likewise, I enjoy taking their words and imagining how I would say the same things, how my heart would cry out in the circumstances of my own days. So I thought it might be interesting to share some of my Psalms of Ascent here as well. I won't say that they're exactly paralleling what is going on in my life at the moment. They're more in response to the original words, and how they echo in my head after studying them. So here's Psalm 120:
In my distress I called to the Lord,
and He answered me:
"Lord deliver me from lying lips
and a deceitful tongue."
What will He give you,
and what will He do to you,
you deceitful tongue?
A warrior's sharp arrows,
with burning charcoal!
What misery that I have stayed in Meshech,
that I have lived among the tents of Kedar!
I have lived to long
with those who hate peace.
I am for peace; but when I speak,
they are for war.

And now for my version:

I cry out to God,
I who am miserable,
Buried amongst deceit
I cry out empty and await His answer.

Those who have lied,
Those who have mistreated
They shall get their reward,
But it is not mine to repay their misery with misery.

I've dwelt long in their darkness
Allowing their mind games and
manipulation to torture me.
It's hard to see the reason for so much abuse.

All I ask is for a cease fire
For us to be reasonable and at peace.
But they insist upon continued dissent.
They refuse to hear my plea.

Okay, so maybe this first one isn't exactly uplifting. A bit of a downer really, but it's only the beginning of the journey. A place to start looking forward to a better time, a safer place. And it's always good to be reminded that God wants to hear everything that is in our hearts. He wants us to feel free to come to Him with everything that is within us. Naturally, His desire is for our hearts to be turned to praise, but that isn't possible every moment of every day. So He takes us as we come. Broken and bruised, or thankful and jubilant. These are the sort of things that uplift me.