Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Dose of Dostoyevsky

Night has come and a hush is falling over the flat. It is a place that goes to sleep a bit earlier than I am accustomed to, or at least settles down before I cease to be alert. I've been writing a lot today. Not only is this my second blog today, but I've been working on a story and am close to hitting the 100 page point. It's been a long time since I've produced so much. An encouraging thing if writing still resides in my soul.
As mentioned before I've also been reading a lot. The last book I finished clocked in at about 827 pages if I recall correctly. Sadly, it wasn't so much worth the reading. Rather funny to note, part of the reason I pressed on was because it was a massive book and Karina had carted it all the way across the globe so I figured there must be some value in it. When I returned the book to her this weekend, however, I learned that she hadn't even read it yet herself.
Well, at least the book I'm reading now has proved to get me thinking already. I've taken on the rather daunting task of reading The Brother's Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. To finish it will be no small feat at 718 pages with very small print, but I'll do my best to make it through as I ponder the insights I find therein as well.
There have been some challenges for me this past year. This being a public forum I won't go into great detail, but I'll be honest. I have struggled. I want to be a loving person. I want to be the kind of person that, upon spending time with me, people feel as though their life has been bettered in some way. Not because I myself make them better, but because they experience the love of God through me. I know that I, of myself, am far from being a loving and considerate person. It is work for me. While there are ever so many people that I love dearly, there are equally as many, and no doubt exponentially more, that drive me batty. They get under my skin for one reason or another and being kind to them, let alone loving, is not my first thought. But this is not what I want from my life, and not what God wants from me either.
Let us look now at some wise words written by Dostoyevsky:

"That's the chief question-my most agonizing question. I shut my eyes and ask myself, 'would you persevere long on that path? And if the patient whose wounds you are washing did not meet you with gratitude, but worried you with his whims, without valuing or remarking your charitable services, began abusing you and rudely commanding you, and complaining to the superior authorities of you (which often happens when people are in great suffering)-what then? Would you persevere in you love, or not?' And do you know, I came with horror to the conclusion that, if anything could dissipate my love to humanity, it would be ingratitude. In short, I am a hired servant, I expect my payment at once-that is, praise, and the repayment of love with love. Otherwise I am incapable of loving anyone."

I've read this passage several times now, and every time I am struck by how much I can see of myself in this. It is so easy to love people in theory. So easy to care about their souls. But when they don't care a whit about me? Well, it's suddenly not so easy. It's not even so much about expecting them to do the same things that I do. I don't expect that. But what I've grown to see so clearly this year is that I do respect a certain element of respect. I expect people to follow the golden rule. If I treat them kindly and with respect, I want to be treated the same way. And when I'm not...where is the love?
I think in some ways it is a lot easier to accept this sort of treatment from people who do not believe in God. I've long seen the beauty in the adage that we must "love the sinner, hate the sin." I think as a Christian it is important to realize that I cannot hold non-Christians to the same standards that I seek to live my life by. They don't follow the same moral code. The things that are not acceptable to me, might be completely acceptable to them, and therefore, I have no place to tell them where they are doing the wrong thing.
I'm not talking about absolutes, like saying, "well, you don't know any better so it's really okay for you to go out and shoot your neighbor because you want to steal his car." I'm talking about the moral codes that I chose to live by because of my faith. And because I have spent a long time contemplating this sort of issue, it isn't so difficult for me to accept when people who are not Christians don't agree with my beliefs, or when they see the world differently.
However, it's a lot easier to become judgmental of others who I feel should be on the same page. We are called to unity in Christ. We are called to accept one another, to love one another, to pray with and for one another. One of the greatest blessings in my life is that I have been able to live in three countries, in cities of all different shapes and sizes, and to experience humanity in general and Christians in particular in all three locales. The churches I have attended have varied greatly, but in each and every one that I have been in, I have found people who love Jesus with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength. They worship in different ways, they praise in different ways, they even serve others in different ways, but I have seen Jesus in them, I have felt accepted by them, and I have grown in my faith through contact with them. I might not always agree with them on every point of debate over the word of God, but I can love and accept them because I have seen their hearts.
Why then do I find myself coming in judgment of others when the thing they don't seem to agree about is me as a person? Is my love so shallow that a mere act of ingratitude is enough to shake it entirely, to cause me to withdraw it. In truth, just as the woman said of those suffering patients, people who are in pain, or have issues of one kind or another, often lash out at those who are trying to help them, or fail to see the value in what is being offered them because of their own misfortunes.
I know that I am weak and frail, that I do not love the way I ought or serve as much as I could. I know that I fall and fall and sometimes before I can even get back on my feet from one disaster I'm back on my face again. It's like the year after I got a concussion in a Hong Kong hospital. I couldn't seem to keep my balance. Over and over and over I found myself on the ground when normal people were perfectly capable of remaining vertical. But in those cases I did my best to brush it off and jump back up, sometimes before the people around me had fully become aware of the fact that I was down on the ground for the hundredth time. If only I could learn to be more resilient when it comes to hurt feelings. If only I could manage to grasp the truth that I am not the one sent to judge the world, but to love it. "For how can I love God whom I have not seen if I can't love my brother who I have seen?" (my own paraphrase of I John 4:19 I think) No matter how many times I have read those words I find that I still slip back into my old ways, longing to do to others as they HAVE done to me, rather than as I wish they would do.
I must confess, it's been a really long time since I've written a paper. Obviously this is not a paper, but it feels a bit like some sort of discourse and as though there should be some nice little conclusion to wrap things up. Something to pull it all together and make it, if not more pleasant, at least somehow resolved. But this isn't the sort of thing I really know how to resolve. It's something I'm still trying to hash out for myself. So rather than tying it off with a sweet little bow of repentance and forgiveness, I leave it as it is, something I need to keep working out with fear and trembling and will hopefully learn to do better with as God gives me chance and circumstance in the days to come.

Small Obsessions...

Recently I've become a bit fixated on DM. I don't know what it is about the place that draws me. Something about those rows of colorful cleaning products and beauty supplies. I can just wander around the little store here in Marianske Lazne for ages.
I first went in a couple weeks ago looking for toothpaste, or maybe just a place to pass some time. A place outside the cold rainy weather that has been a blight on me most of the so called summer.
As I walked the aisles it just felt so fresh. Everything was so new and bright. It's amazing the power of marketing as well. I found that I wanted to put these things in a bag and carry them away with me. Somehow just possessing them would bring a little bit of that purity and newness into my life as well.
I'd been in other DMs in Cheb and the like, but there was something about this one that just made me want to stare at the products, to run my finger across the plastic bottles, to try for a hint of the perfume on the testers, to ponder what it would be like to use this, that or the other thing.
I ended up there long than anticipated because there was no one to let me back in the house, so I figured I might as well. I ended up creating a little wish list of excuses to come back to the store, and finally left with the toothpaste and a bottle of lychee-watermelon energy water. Unfortunately it tasted more of artificial watermelon than of lychee, and I can't say it gave me much energy, but it was worth a try.
Several days later I was back. This time to stare at the bottles of nail polish on the wall. I have four or five bottles of polish that I've been carting around the world with me for quite some time now. It's mostly for my toes. I started painting my toe nails around the end of high school. Generally, I've stuck to really mild colors. Silver, opalescent pink, lavender, and one type that perfectly matched the carpet of my apartment (almost called it a flat after so many years...) in Albany. I think it has something to do with the fact that I've looooooong hated feet in general, and my own feet in particular. By covering the nails in something light and peaceful it helped to negate some of their ickyness, at least on the surface and to casual observers passing by me when I'm wearing flip flops or sandals. But last summer I had a pedicure in Pasadena and opted for a lovely shade of blue. It inspired me. It somehow made my feet stand out as something other than my feet. Not anything beautiful or particularly likable even, but at least less repulse than usual. I'd tried a dark blue that I had with me about a month ago, but it was a bit too much. It needed a subtler touch, so I spent a considerable amount of time perusing the shiny glass bottles of vibrant colors, looking for just the right one. In the end, I did find a nice sparkly sort of turquoise-ish blue. The funniest bit is that, when I went to show it to Tammy this past weekend, she had bought the shade lighter that I had also been going back and forth between. Who'd a thunk?
The weather has been extra bad this week, temperatures only going up to the low teens (which would be like the lower 50's) so I haven't been back in a while. I've pretty much decided my next purchase will be some sort of cleansing mask. It's rather hard to decide on the best one with my language skills, but the desire to somehow do something good for my skin is prompting me to head back to that lovely store...
(Note: you really should check out the link. It'll take you directly to photos of the type of store in question and you can enjoy that brand new feeling too :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pisek, the Final Chapter

So at the end of our very lovely day of castle touring, Kelly and I caught a bus that took us to the very old city of Pisek. Kelly, being the great Czech expert that she is, had worked out all the bus times, and figured that we could take one leaving almost immediately upon our arrival, or stick around a couple hours, have dinner, and see some of the sights. Pisek is home to the oldest bridge in all of central Europe, so we agreed that taking the 8:30 bus home would work out just fine. Besides, the weather was still so perfect that it just made sense to enjoy it as long as possible.
After reconfirming bus times on the schedule in the window, and finding the right place to catch our bus, just so everything would go smoothly, we headed up to the center. Pisek is, indeed, a really lovely town. The sun was falling, and in centers that often means it's a bit difficult to get good lighting, but I did my best to capture some of the views that we were blessed to see.

Not wanting to worry about missing our bus, we didn't wander long before choosing a restaurant. After a relaxing dinner (we were both pretty happy to sit a bit after all our running about) we still had enough time to wander a bit more. Kelly had been to Pisek once before, and wanted to find the park she'd been in, so we set out in search of it, and did, indeed, find the place, as well as finding a folk festival in progress. So we watched the folk dancers for a while, then headed back for the station. I was a bit sad not to have seen the ancient bridge, but figured it would give me a reason to try coming back again some day in the future.
Now let me tell you a bit about the Czech transportation system so that you can hopefully appreciate the next bit of my story. The trains are all owned by one company. This is not exactly a good thing. It means there is no competition, so, basically, they can do what they want. The prices aren't always the greatest, and when they have delays there is nothing to do but wait, and wait, and wait. I've experienced this plenty of times, and it's definitely not the best thing. The bus system, however, is a bit more varied. You have your city buses of course, which are run by their individual cities. Then there are the CSAD buses that go all over the country. These are like the basic cheap, not very nice buses that are also connected to the train system. Then there are the Student Agency buses. These buses are...Nice! You can ride in style sitting on stuffed leather seats. They give you a free hot beverage and the option to watch a movie. They also are sometimes cheaper, but you really need to book a ticket in advance if you want to ride on one of these.
So Kelly and I arrived all tired and sweaty at the bus station only to make a rather frightening discovery. The last bus of the evening was a Student Agency bus. There were about ten or fifteen other people waiting for this bus to arrive. And on these buses, they don't allow as many people as possible to crowd in. Either you have a seat, or you don't get on the bus.
The bus was coming from a large touristy city as well, which meant, on a Saturday evening, that it was very full. As soon as the conductor got off the bus he shouted out something cheerily in Czech to the effect of, "if you have a ticket, please get on. If not, unfortunately, you have to wait and see if we have space."
The people pushed right up to the doors, depositing their luggage into the open compartment and accepting their seat numbers happily. Kelly and I waited, along with one young girl, up near the front to see if there was any possibility that we might yet squeeze on.
When the time came, the conductor looked around and after checking the seating arrangement inside came out with a smile again and said "Bohuzel..." That was definitely NOT the word we'd been hoping for. It means, "unfortunately." I must admit, I felt he was far too cheerful when using this most distressing word.
And so the big beautiful yellow bus pulled away, and Kelly and I were left with nothing. We searched for information about possible buses to other cities that might still have connections taking us back to Prague, but there was a great big NOTHING.
This was one of those times I was definitely thankful that I wasn't traveling alone. I was also thankful to be with someone else who is level headed, and also who can speak a fair amount of Czech. We turned with disappointment back toward the town, and made our way to the center once more. The good thing was that I was going to be able to see the bridge after all. There was a international folk tale festival going on, and this meant that there wasn't as much room in hotels and pensions as we had been hoping for, but after some serious walking around town, we ended up at the white rose. The man at the counter was friendly, and spoke English. It was literally the first English we'd heard from anyone besides each other since leaving Prague in the morning, and it was a relief not to have to fight to communicate. We paid more than we would have liked, but by that point we were pretty desperate, and I've definitely been living super cheaply as far as accommodations are concerned, so it probably wasn't as bad as it felt to me. Typically I stay in hostels, and don't like to pay more than $10 or $15 for a night, but this place cost about $35 each which seemed pretty steep to my way of thinking. At least there was a bed involved. And even separate beds for us both, but not in a room with strangers, which made it quite different from hostels. We were also able to take showers, even though we had only one set of clothes and no tooth brushes. (sigh) Gives a new definition to "packing light" for sure.
And so that was that. We stayed the night and got at least a bit of sleep. Not the greatest, thanks to a very hard bed, but better than wandering the streets all night. Come morning, I got up around 6:30, took a really quick refresh shower, and then headed out to take a few more photos. Okay, so for the first one I just stuck my head out the window, but it worked :)

I was really impressed with the bridge. It was really incredible to know I was standing on something so ancient. According to Wikipedia it was built sometime in the 3rd quarter of the 13th century. Yes, that's old!
I took several pictures there before heading back to a few of the places I'd enjoyed the evening before. It had been too dark to get good photos then, so I wanted to go back and try once more when there was better lighting.

I made it back to the hotel in plenty of time to enjoy the "free" breakfast. Basically, we figured since we'd already paid for it we should eat as much as we could manage :) Plus that was a good way to start the day.
We made it easily to the station for the 8:30 AM train. Not quite so many people are crowding on so early on a Sunday morning. Even though we had a Student Agency bus to contend with once again, we were able to get on, and we were soon riding on style and I had a little hot chocolate to warm me up since I still only had shorts to wear. Fortunately I didn't freeze, and by the time we got back to Prague it was actually appropriate attire.
We had a nice hike back up to Kelly's palce, where we were both thankful for real showers and a fresh change of clothes. Then I headed off to enjoy a bit of the city for the day. I'd really been looking forward to going to church, but with the bus issue, that sadly didn't happen. I did, however, get some shopping in (not that this is really any sort of church replacement mind you) and was able to sit for a couple of hours in Starbucks enjoying an ice cold Caramel Frappaccino before catching the train back to Marianske Lazne at about 4. In all, a very satisfying weekend.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sunny Summer Holiday Weekend Continued...

The boat ride really was just the thing for this day. It made it feel all the more summery, even though I couldn't tell you the last summer boat ride I went on. Well, maybe I can, it was in Alaska, but a very different place for sure. We managed to get a spot out in the sun, which was okay for one direction only. It was sweaty hot, but personally I rather love that. As you can see, Kelly and I were both quite pleased with our choice.
The views were super nice for the most part as well. I was so impressed with the castles and the natural scenery. It was strange to imagine how different it all must have looked when the water was 40 meters lower. But it's definitely spectacular as it is now.

So as you can see I started with Orlik and then ended with Zvikov which is the next castle we went to. Along with all these breathtaking views, we also saw a rather startling amount of nudity. You know, just so we would remember that we're in Europe and that things are just a bit different around here. Craziness.
Anyhow, Zvikov castle is more of a ruin, but it has undergone some repairs and was really incredibly beautiful. According to legend, this is where the Czech Crown Jewels originally resided before Karlstejn castle was built. So it has a rather important history. However, later on it was largely destroyed, especially when a large portion of the castle fell into the water. It was cool to wander around in the partial rooms that are not just openly outdoors and to imagine that these were once the royal chambers.
The castle was a self tour and they allowed photo taking inside so I have a lot of pictures. There was even a wedding photo shoot going on inside. Very magical sort of place to be certain.

As you can see, I was particularly taken with the arches. They were so beautiful. The last photo in this group is of the outdoor area that used to be inside the castle. It must have been incredible when it was complete and in use.
I was definitely a bit snap happy at this place :)

This next set of pictures are from the inside. They are trying to preserve the original artwork. A lot of it is just in fragments, but in some rooms they have done really amazing work.

Then we moved outside and checked out the towers and views. There are two towers that are still standing. One is a whopping 3 1/2 meters thick! That's a lot of rock. The other one was quite short and they aren't quite certain of the purpose because it's mostly just hidden amongst the trees.

We wandered around a bit more, both inside and out before heading to the boat for the return ride to Orlik where we planned to catch the bus to Pisek.

That last picture was taken by a very dirty slimy lake, but the trees were so pretty that I just couldn't resist the picture in the early evening light.
Well, I'm afraid that's all I have time for today, so I'm just going to have to wrap this up another day. And so the weekend continues almost a week after the fact :) It's a weekend that just keeps on giving, which is a good thing because the cooler temperatures and gray skies have thoroughly sunk in once again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Sunny Summer Holiday Weekend, and About Time Too!

This summer has been, well, not really very summery. I suppose there are those that go for long lazy days mostly sitting around, but I've never been the type. Generally speaking my summer holidays are jammed packed with travels and visiting friends and family. And when those travels involve going to my sister Julie's there is generally a considerable amount of cooking and outdoor work involved for good measure as well. And naturally, a key ingredient of a quality summer is, SUN! An ingredient that has been missing for a majority of the time, much to my general dispositions disliking.
So when I headed out to visit Kelly in Prague this past weekend I was hoping for both the action and the sun that I had been craving. And gratifyingly, the weekend pulled through in a big way. Kelly, who has been my ESI boss for the past three years, has been home for the summer helping to train up new teachers, and is now back in Czech for a couple of months before relocating back to Washington as she seeks to find what God is calling her to next. I was really thankful to have her back, and to be able to catch up on life and things in general. Kelly has been in Czech for around 13 years, so she has done and seen an awful lot of this place and yet she still managed to come up with a trip that entailed places neither one of us had ever been. Let me just warn you, I have a LOT of pictures, so there is the possibility that this will cover more than one post.
I headed out to Prague on Friday morning and met up with Kelly around 2:30 after she had safely seen the new batch of teachers arrive at the airport and meet their proper school representatives. We thought a lot about those early days that we experienced in this country, and imagined the dazed and excited teachers trying to grasp what they've gotten themselves into for this next year. It is strange to no longer be a part of the organization, to know that my school year is not about to start, and that instead, I will remain in limbo as everyone else continues on, but that is the nature of things, and part of the transient life I live. As much as I like routines I sure do tend to live in such an odd state of flux. I guess that's because I also like new beginnings...
Kelly decided that I should see a new part of Prague, so after dropping off my bags and resting a bit, we headed back out into the lovely summery weather. We headed down to the river and crossed over to walk along the other side. We walked down close to the river and watched the swans floating on the water, and people enjoying the chance to be so freely outside. We passed under a very significant piece of architecture, the early location of a castle in Prague. According to the legends, the bit on the top is thought to be Libuse's bath. She was the young princess who first had a vision of the amazing city that was to be. Really beautiful place. The second picture is how the rocky outcropping looks from the other side of the hill.

We continued on to a sandy restaurant where we had drinks and enjoyed the day that was still warm enough not to need a jacket even after 8 in the evening. It was really nice to catch up with her, and I'm sure you can tell I enjoyed being out in so much lovely fresh and sunny air. After a nice break at the restaurant we hiked back to her house, and soon headed to bed to be prepared for the big event that the next day was going to be.
6:20 (or there abouts) awake, and ready to start the day. Or at least ready to throw myself into the shower for a few minutes. It was a quick one, but I'd had the chance to actually get sweaty the day before and thought it might be a good plan to start this hiking day off fresh. I was RIGHT.
Kelly had booked us tickets for a bus to Orlik. The bus only runs there direct on Saturdays and we wanted to be sure to get seats. It was a good plan. We were on the bus and on our way by 7:40. The ride was quite beautiful, although by the end I was ready to be off the bus. It was only an hour and a half or so, but that was a bit much for my stomach early in the morning. Rather like driving down the river road :) I do much better on that ride when I'm the driver for sure. But I don't think I'd like driving a bus much.
Anyhow, we stopped in the town for coffee (Kelly had only had one cup before we left the house and so a second was due before we could really get into the day. There wasn't much to see in the little village of Orlik, so as soon as we had managed to find a bathroom we headed to the castle.

I've been to quite a few castles in my day, but this one was pretty impressive. We went on the tour and it was a good one. It was Czech so we could only pick up on this and that along the way, but we went into a lot of very nicely done up rooms, and they had doors opened along the way so we could look into places we weren't actually allowed to go in. What was most fascinating about this castle, however, were the views. It's built on rock and surrounded by river and green covered rocky hills. Some interesting facts, originally the castle stood high over a valley through which the Vltava River slowly wended it's way. When the dam was built a short distance away, the level of the water was raised by 40 meters. For those not familiar with the metric system, that's a LOT. So now the castle's foundations sit just barely above the water.
Out of literally every window you could see the spectacular natural view. Being a fabulously beautiful day, there were lots of people out enjoying the calm water. Sailboats, houseboats, and ferries were running here, there and everywhere. All that water action prompted Kelly to suggest that we check ferry times after the tour and see about traveling to a second castle. While not a part of our original plan, we both decided this would be a perfect addition to the day. It cut out a bit of our planned hiking, but it worked out so splendidly that we should have planned it this way to begin with. (I feel like I'm just littering this post with superlative type adjectives, but it was just that great a weekend.)
Before the ferry we had time to do a little walking and take in some of the breathtaking views.

Then we came back in time to buy ice cream, because a sunny summer day demands it, and then we stood in line for our tickets on this lovely little ferry.

And on that note I'll leave you to await the next installment.
Oh, and in case you were curious, the color of the letters really did change. According to a nameless source, and one that wishes not to be discovered, the previous lettering was difficult to read. Something about the way eye sight disintegrates with age of something like that 8) So hopefully the white will be easier to read...

Saturday, August 14, 2010


It seems, shocking as this is to me, that Katcha and I might actually be making some progress. Last night Mark went out with a friend for awhile, leaving me and the dog alone together in the house. This isn't something that happens very often. And if it does she usually hangs out under a blanket somewhere, but this time she decided to stick by me. She had some intensity issues going on, but I knew she didn't need to go out because I'd just taken her shortly before Mark left.
After petting her a while, and giving her a little food treat, I was very curious why she still seemed so intent about needing something. She's quite spoiled, as I've said before, more interested in food off your plate than her own food, and I didn't want to just keep feeding her piskoty (which are little cookies kind of like Nilla Wafers, only not as sweet) where are her favorite snack.
Suddenly I had the strangest idea that she might actually be hungry for real. I've never seen her eat her dog food, and as usual her bowl had quite a bit in it. I tried to get her to eat it, but she didn't seem exactly interested, but just kept looking around and whining. Then I got the bright idea that, if I showed interest in her food it might mysteriously become more appealing to her. Lo and behold, I hit the nail on the head with that one. I then spent the next ten or fifteen minutes pretending to eat her food and then setting it in front of her where she would eat a piece and then whine again until I would pretend to eat some and then she'd eat another piece. I've got to say it was pretty hilarious, and I felt quite ridiculous. Fortunately no one was around to see me shaking her bowl in front of my face as though it was an exciting treat for me.
After she ate quite a bit she seemed to calm down some. I still couldn't get her to drink any water, but at least I knew she wasn't starving or anything. She was much happier then and came and curled up by me on the bed while I played Pacman on Google to keep myself entertained. Not exactly how I generally prefer to spend my Friday nights, but at least I feel like I did make some progress with the dog. And when Mark was home later he said he thinks she's starting to like me better. She didn't bark at me at all that day, and even curled up with me for a while at night, although I prefer having the bed dog free. She's not quite my Kori dog from when I was a kid.
Well, I think it's about time for me to take her out once again. Gotta keep up the work if I want to make her like me after all :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Goin' on a Mushroom Hunt

While I posted pictures of a mushroom spotted on a hike, yesterday I had the opportunity to take part in the actual mushroom hunt. Apparently, Czech forests are home to thousands of varieties of mushrooms, many of which are edible. During the war, collecting mushrooms was a way to provide food for a family free of charge. There is an abundant supply, but because the mushrooms were so important, their location was something rather, sacred I guess you could say. Perhaps I'm reading more into the whole event than is completely accurate, but the whole event really did have a bit of a clandestine feel to it somehow.
Generally mushrooms are collected early in the morning, but we went out in the afternoon, perhaps partly due to my frequent sleeping in habit. Hard to rouse myself on these lazy days somehow. We headed out about two, and made our way past the small village of Krasne, a place that lives up to its name which literally means beautiful, to a wooded area. Czech forests are really lovely places. The trees tend to have a lot of openness to them. The ground is covered in evergreen needles, turned brown and dry and making a springy carpet. And where the ground shows through the tree litter it is mossy and green. And in this blanket of greenery and the twisted roots and twigs the mushrooms hide.

Having never done anything like this I really had no idea what to do, so they had to teach me which mushrooms were edible and which you eat once and done, like this cute little guy.

It was pretty tricky to see them. The kind we were looking for grow almost completely hidden under the forest covering. I had to be shown how to recognize them, and then how to carefully free them. It was amazing to see how much bigger they were once they were cleaned out. Here you can see the top of a mushroom in the middle, and then what they look like once removed.

I got fairly decent at finding them after a while. Of course I still had to check to make sure they were the safe kind just to be sure. It was really quite the event.
I thought this kind looked like it belonged more on the ocean floor than in a Czech forest.

Apparently these can be eaten in soup, but we didn't actually pick any of them.
These are like the mushrooms we collected, but are actually ones Mark's dad picked last week.

I'm really thankful to have had the chance to take part in this Czech tradition, even though I'm not exactly a mushroom fan. This week I've had a mushroom cream sauce with dumplings, fried mushrooms, and today it was mushroom soup. Perhaps I'll develop an appreciation for them after all.