Thursday, April 29, 2010

A summary flowing into Spring...

I've belabored the point. I've allowed business to get in the way of my straightforward reporting, and I've gotten so far behind that it hardly seems any point to write about those past days I've passed up. But I feel that I really ought to finish up Mom and Dad's trip here. In my vast catalog of photos (I don't really want to think of exactly HOOOOW many photos I have!) I have far too many stories to tell. So best to pick a few that sum things up, and move along into the new season that has taken Cheb by storm - only not exactly "storm," because the weather has been perfect and sunny and beautiful and I want it to continue regardless of what meteorologists seem to be saying at the moment...
So we'll begin with an ending. The end of the freedom to drive. Anyone who has ever been absent from this freedom, having first been accustomed to having it, will understand how hard it was to say goodbye to our little Skoda friend. While she wasn't exactly the top of the line sort of auto what with the front passenger door that would only open from the inside, the electric front windows that wouldn't roll all the way, and would never roll down, and the little engine that only barely could, our Felicia Fabia got us there and back, and we really couldn't have asked for more, especially for the price we paid ;)
The visit with my parents ended with a final weekend in Prague. As mentioned before there were lots of other moments I could go on and on about, like the fun and endlessly complicated dinner we had with Mark's parents, but there really isn't time, so I'll just post a few of my favorite pictures of our time together in Prague before they headed back to the US.

Then I'll briefly say that I had a positively glorious time with Malin when she came to visit. It was sooooo great to have her here. We reminisced about old times and dreamed of Hong Kong, as well as looking to the future and making the plans. In the midst of all the talking, we managed to take in a few great sights as well. She came just as castle season opened, so on April first we were able to enter Cheb castle on the first day that it was open.
On Good Friday we headed out to Regensburg in Germany. We were disappointed that all the shops were closed for the holiday, but the churches were all open, and we saw a lot of really beautiful old buildings and we thought about the significance of the day. We also found a nice cafe where we were able to sit and chat and look through magazines. Great time for sure :)

Malin's trip also ended in Prague. Our hostel was excessively dodgy, but fortunately we only slept there one night, and the rest of our time we spent seeing the sights. Mark also made sure we experienced some Czech culture, and he borrowed the little Easter whipping wand from a guy working at the Mucha museum and very gently beat us. What a great guy he is :) He didn't want us to be "dry" or unhealthy, but he was also nice and didn't hit us hard as I've heard some people are fond of doing.

Now I just wanted to end this post with some of the signs of spring that are popping up all over the place. I've been on some lovely walks with Mark in Marianske Lazne, and some peaceful walks alone here and Cheb and have enjoyed making memories of the things I've seen in the amazing Czech nature.

So now I say, a very happy spring to one and all, and here's to hope I see some ducklings soon :D

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A good ache

For a couple hours yesterday and several hours this morning I joined Mark at his parents cottage/garden. It's a work in progress and we were helping them move piles of rock and dirt from one place to another. Sounds simple enough, but it was pretty serious. Brought back memories of trying to create a yard from a hillside at Mom and Dad's place a couple summers ago. I've a feeling I'm going to sleep REEEEALLLLYYY well tonight. There's nothing like some seriously hard work to make me feel like I've accomplished something. Even if the pile did seem to be eternally growing bigger, rather than shrinking, it was so fulfilling to know that I was making progress.
I really wish more things in life were like that. That you could actually see the progress you're making. That everything you're doing would look like it counts for something. Sometimes, when Mark was pushing the wheelbarrow and I was alone by the pile, I would attack it with a spade to loosen things up. When he would come back it would almost look as though all the work we'd been doing was for nothing. The loosened dirt would completely fill the space we'd just cleaned out, but as we kept out it we could tell we really were helping out the situation, cleaning things up. Sadly life isn't really like that. We can clean one day and three days later it's as though we'd never done a thing. We can reach out to people over and over, and find that they are still just as resistant to our help or friendship. So often it feels as though nothing we do really has any impact on those around us at all.
I was listening to a pod cast from my church in Hong Kong yesterday and the message was about taking time out to listen to what God is saying to us. I know that I often end up making my life so busy that I don't take the time to really listen to what He's saying, to see the situations around me where I can be making more of a difference. She said also how, when we want to reach out to people it's easy to see the sheer number of people who need love, who need a savior, and to be overwhelmed by it all. And when we look out and see how much there is to do, like when we see the mountain that just keeps growing rather than shrinking, it's easy to become so exhausted that we quit trying all together. A better way to do it is to think of one person, or maybe two, and to really concentrate on them. To see what God is asking us to do to make their lives better, and to meet them where they are. I can't expect them to be comfortable in the same places where I am comfortable, but must honestly reach out to them in their own places of need. It encouraged me. Sometimes I find myself wondering what purpose I'm really serving here in the Czech Republic. Am I really serving the people God is bringing into my life? That's the question.
So tonight, I'm going to sleep well. In the morning I'll wake up with that good ache. The one that says I've done something productive. And as I take each pain filled step I want to be thinking of how I can reach out to that person or two, how I can meet them where they are and make a difference. It might not be huge, I might not see the mountain move, but all I can do is listen to God's voice and do my best to follow where He leads me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Still Swirling...

So my time is short at the moment, but I felt like I've been frightfully negligent around here, and I just wanted to share a few more pictures at least from Mom and Dad's trip. They need their chance to really hit the web after all, since I know they're not likely to post photos anywhere. It really was great to be able to drag them around Europe, and now I'm totally looking forward to Julie coming so I can do the same with her :) This'll be a bit fast and furious, but I figure it's better than nothing, and should at least make my mommy happy :) Yes, I'm still alive and kickin'!
After so much castle FAIL, it was great to at long last get them to one that was open. So here are some pictures from the amazing Hlubouka castle. Used primarily for hunting parties it is a fairly modern castle. We were only able to tour 13 of the 123 rooms or something to that effect, but it was still quite impressive, and we were just so happy to finally be able to go inside!

Next on the list is a busy day we spent running all over the place. From school, to the incredible basilica in Waldsassen which is full of posed skeletons in fancy gold outfits

to Jarmila's farm where we were given a tour by Tonda which I was supposed to "translate." Between my pathetic Czech, his low level of English, and a bit of German for good measure they were at least able to get some idea of what was going on:

Then on to the little church, which Jarmila's family also owns, where Karina and I performed at Christmas. Dad enjoyed his moment in the pulpit as well :)
Mom and Dad really loved the farm and the church. Hopefully I'll be able to bring Julie there as well because I'm sure she'll like meeting the Czech horses...
That was on a Monday and then on Tuesday we went back to Marianske Lazne to hang out with Mark. He took us to the beautiful cemetery and we all really enjoyed it.

The cemetery trip was followed by an hour relaxing in a salt cave. Very interesting experience. We sat in beach like chairs in a room made of bricks of salt from the Himalayas. The floor was covered with salt from the dead sea, so we were definitely salted up. We had a moment to just relax, as they played some soft music and we watched a fire flickering on a screen in the front. The only bad bit was that there weren't enough seats next to each other so Mark was up front by himself :( But other than that it was a chance to just take a moment to breathe. I'm not sure if the effect of the salt had any long lasting ramifications, but I'm certain that my body was more than happy to be still for a little while, and I, who despise naps, definitely fell asleep.
Well, that's all the time I have for now as I must run along to my classes, but you've at least got a taste...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time for another photo flurry...

To anyone who may have been eagerly checking my site for updates (ie my mother) I do apologize for the long absence, and will try to make amends in the days to come. So up first, a few sights from the amazing city of Cesky Krumlov. I first visited this picturesque town in 2008 when I went on the ESI canoe trip minus the canoe part ;) I'm still thankful I made that decision! I can recall their cold wet bodies quivering around the dinner table as they all seemed to be questioning their sanity for going on that little excursion while the rest of us basked in the glow of having spent a satisfying day sight seeing. Anyhow, it was great fun to bring Mom and Dad there. It was Mark's first visit as well, and we all enjoyed the sights of this lovely UNESCO sight.

On the first day there we went on a little trip to another castle called Rozemberk. It was about an hour drive away from Krumlov. Mark had done a lot of research to find castles that were open all year long. Unfortunately this one forgot to tell him that it is open during the week...but not the weekends. Seriously? Yup. So we only got to enjoy the view and weren't able to check it out on the inside.

All the same, it was a nice little side trip and allowed Mom her closest experience ever with swans :)
This next pictures is probably my favorite one from the entire trip. I think I love it most because Dad is actually really smiling! He never complains about all the photos we take of him, but this one shows that he really did have fun on the trip. I think it was partly because we'd found a treat that so perfectly fits his taste.
Now before I end I have a funny picture that is actually from Cheb, but I wanted to get it in before I forgot about it. I was pleased to introduce Mom and Dad to the store OBI. It's basically like a Home Depot, but it has a rather significant color scheme and mascot. See if you can note why I thought it was so appropriate for Mom and Dad to be photoed here:

So, for the time being, this is the Transient Drifter signing out...