Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wake Me Up...

When September Ends...hahaha. It seems it's come to that. Quoting Greenday of all things. But also stating a fact. September is rapidly coming to a close, and most of it has been like a dream. A strange dream full of children and noise and a mix of languages that still has my head spinning a bit, though I've been back in Czech for several days now.
I won't bore you with all the details. As it is, I got a wee bit behind in the quest to journal every single hour of every single day of my life (far too big a task to really take on) and it's more of a mish mash of events by this point. Games of Skip Bo and a game like Sorry. Being the captured "princess" tied up with a rope. Hide and Seek, a game that definitely transcends language. And collecting treasures from the ground. It was three weeks in another world for sure. While I can't say that I ever gained the status that Uncle Mark has (nor would I ever attempt to since he's so amazing with the kids) we did get to the point where they accepted me as a part of the crew.
Kids are kids in any language. It was really great to have the chance to get to know them a bit better. To play their wild games and learn how to decipher something of what they were saying in German. Really tested my skills that are rather rusty after a number of years I don't really want to mention since my high school classes ended.
Besides all the time spent with the kids, once they were in school Mark and I also had some chances to explore the town of Weiden. It was about a 4 KM walk into town, but the weather our third week was so fabulous that it was well worth walking there and back. We enjoyed wandering around the old parts of town, as well as the great McDonalds coupons that we got. They made me think of Hong Kong but they didn't have any seaweed flavored Shake Shake fries here. Although there is something called the Nurnburger that has little bratwursts in it. We weren't too keen on the idea of trying that, so we stuck mostly with Big Macs :)
So here are some views of the lovely town of Weiden. Mark even got into the idea of me being a poser and took some fun shots :)

On one day Mark and I also went down to the little airfield in Latsch which is really close to the little village we were staying in. We had a great time watching the gliders flying and enjoyed a helicopter flight lesson in progress as well. It was a fun day and I even got a few fun photos in as well.

And the last set of pictures are from the little village of Neunkirchen where we were staying. It's a pretty little quiet place and we really had a good time there.

The tree in the middle picture was the source of the nuts in the picture below it. The girls were very excited about these nuts. They had Mark throw a stick up at the tree to get them down. They rained down around us, the thick green casings falling off and the nuts spilling out everywhere. Apparently in Czech you can sell these to farmers who feed them to their animals, but in Germany we only collected them and made our own little animals out of them using toothpicks. Unfortunately I forgot to ever take a picture of our creations, so you'll just have to use your imaginations. It's good for you after all :)
And now, the truly last pictures are for Rowan. A little tribute to his love of big machines. Let me just tell you, this was a serious beast.

The time spent with the family was definitely well worth it. Now it's time to see if we can really get the ball rolling so we can head to the US. Hopefully even by the end of October. That's my dream at least :) We'll have to wait and see...

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I've encountered something new. A sort of sub-culture. In America we have garage sales. A place to take the things we've spent time on, but somehow outgrown, and to assign it a value. To share it anew with someone who might value from it as well. I've never been a big-time garage saler, the type that gets up early in the morning to scout out the best bargains. I'm more of the casual stroller, looking for some small deals, something I could likely live with out, but for a low price it might be worth while.
Here in Germany they have something a little different. It's called a Kinderbazaar. Instead of people sitting around outside their homes they bring all their used toys, books, and kids clothes and deposit them in a school gym or community center. And then come the mother's. It's really quite spectacular to watch the rush which often resembles a Day After Thanksgiving sale in the US. They all stand around the doors, pressing tighter and tighter, until at long last they open and they can begin to fill their jumbo sized Ikea bags with treasures that will benefit their families at a bargain.
I've been to quite a few of them during the past couple of weeks, most quite small, but still well attended. Yesterday, however, we went to the jumbo deluxe edition. We arrived an hour before opening time, and were able to purchase baked goods and coffee (fortunately made quite weak because they didn't leave much room for me to add milk) to tide us over before the doors opened. It was an international crowd as well. Germans, Czechs, even some other English speakers all began to crowd around the door half an hour before it opened. At first it was a loose sort of group, but soon it began to resemble the Chinese New Year market in Hong Kong. Not as much black hair, but the press and the crush was there, the feeling that, when the doors opened, you would have no choice but to move along thickly with the masses.
Fortunately, once we were finally let inside everything opened up and we were able to move around freely. Since I don't have any children at the moment, there wasn't a whole lot that I was looking for, but it was still an interesting experience just to be there in the midst of it all.
I've been here in Germany for two weeks now, and it looks like we'll be here for one more. It's a nice change of pace to be certain, and I've definitely enjoyed getting to know Mark's family a bit better. I still have trouble telling the twins apart, but even they are warming up to me, which is really good to see. It's hard not being able to just talk to them, or to understand everything they're saying, but I feel like more and more is coming to me as the days go by, and I can at least follow along for the most part.
Hard to believe September is already more than half way over. I certainly had not imagined I would still be on this side of the world by this point, but there are still experiences to be had and a bit of time yet to spend before the next chapter will really begin.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ja Mam Gulas Im Mein Kopf!

So I'm in Germany, enjoying the crazy things of life with kids. I had no idea we would be here this long, but it has been refreshing and mind straining all at the same time. We're staying with Mark's sister and her family and so I'm having to keep up with conversations in Czech, German, and English and it's quite a challenge. We came on Sunday the 5th of September, so it's been quite a run and definitely good fun. There are four kids here. The girls are 9 and 11 and the boys are 3, so there's a lot of energy and excitement when everyone is around. The boys are in daycare during the week, but the girls were still on holiday last week so we were able to spend a lot of time really hanging out with them. It's definitely frustrating to have such a low language level. I can understand quite a bit, but any sentence formation is patchy at best, and just plain despicable most of the time. But it's all good for me, right? This learning and growing and oh so slow going...
It's been nice to have some fresher air to breathe, just something different from the routines I'd been living in. I've fallen horrendously far behind in my journal, and let internet connections dwindle to the point of freaking people out a bit because I was no longer on top of things in my Lexulous crazed lifestyle, but it's been good for me.
I've also been taught how to make Czech bread dumplings, although I'm not sure if I'll be able to find the right kind of flour in the US, and I'll have to reconvert the measurements. I also made chocolate chip cookies, but I'd done gram conversions and it just didn't really work. We're talking solid grainy sugar pools instead of the lovely perfect ones I made in ML a couple weeks ago. But the kids don't mind. After all, it's a bunch of sugar and Milka. What's not to love? I've forced myself through quite a few as well, just to make up for the fact that they aren't really what they should be. Ah well. Nothing like a few more pounds gained to make me feel better about life. Of course, if I ate all the food people around here seem to think I should I'd be a balloon, so at least I'm still working toward protecting myself on some counts.
I also was quite pleased of my jump roping prowess. The first day we were here the kids had me jump while they turned the short rope and in the process I believe I'm now supposed to have 58 children...I also managed to jump 114 times without a missed step on my own, which was pretty impressive to me considering how long it's been since my personal playground days.
Speaking of which, I was randomly remembering my stint as a cheerleader this morning. Don't ask how it ended up in my head, but I found myself trying to recall the moves and wondering if the video still exists when our little Klamath River squad managed to get a third place trophy both in Cheerleading and Basketball. Of course, at most I think there were five teams competing, but we never had a chance against Grenada and Big Springs who had at least triple the number of students we did. But at least we were able to overpower Hornbrooke. Just thinking the names conjures so many memories. Suddenly I was recalling the Castle Rock Basketball tournaments and sitting around late at night at Castle Rock Elementary school playing Murder and eating gummy bears and listening to the classic scary stories of Diane Oliver.
Perhaps it's partly being here with the kids that draws me back to those old days so long gone by. As the girls have been preparing for school I've been basking in the glow of fresh school supplies. The pens and folders and notebooks of fresh paper. It's interesting to see how different even their school supplies here, and yet the kids are still so much the same.
I've even found myself missing the idea of going to school. Odd, considering how stressed I get just thinking of tests, and how it fills me with dread to think of having to retain all that information again. But I was good at school. I worked hard, but I could do it. I guess that's part of why I've always been frustrated when it comes to finding new jobs. I know I can do whatever people need me to do. It's that way with cooking too. Okay, I'm not any sort of expert in the kitchen, but if I have to do it I can. The main problem is that I don't enjoy it. There isn't this feeling of joy and accomplishment, but more of, what if I boil the rice too long and it ends up a soggy mess - thus I read the package fifty million times during the 15 minutes it takes to boil 15 minute rice just to be sure I'm REALLY doing it all right.
So for those patient enough to make it to the end of this sloppy mess let me say that the title refers to a Czech saying. When they are feeling all messed in the head and can't think straight they say they have goulash in their heads. So the first half is written in Czech and the second half in German since those are the main languages I've been trying to manage around this place.
I guess that's probably enough of an update for now. We'll likely be here at least til the end of this week, so I'll try to share more once I'm back to my normal turf.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Positively Ducky!

I was in the park in the central part of town today. There is a fountain in the middle of the pond, flowers all around the edges. A bench or two here and there. And today, a whole lot of ducks. I was sitting reading Dostoyevsky, eating a chocolate chip cookie from the other day. The ducks were going crazy. They all appeared female, but I think a lot of them were just young so they might still change. They kept diving under the water, and then popping up in different places, an underwater sort of tag. It was hilarious to watch them in their antics. Bit too cold for me to think joining them would be pleasant. And the water a bit to green...
Earlier, walking close to the stream that wends through town, watched two fish trying to avoid me. They're gray, and would blend in so well if they just held still. And don't know what they have to be afraid of. No one fishes in this stream. But they flitted so I caught them in my eye. And then they hurtled themselves all in a rush, one after the other, over a little water fall. Whoosh! Whoosh! Then no more fish.
There used to be a gold fish in a pond. We bonded in a sense. Or maybe I just liked him. I'd look at him every time I walked past. He'd try to hide from me. I don't know how he ended up there. He was all alone, but seemed to run the place. Made it his home. Maybe transplanted from a home pond. Maybe jumped the falls from some place higher up like the ones I watched today. But he's gone now. I don't know where too. There has been so much rain this summer. Maybe it was just too much for him to stay.
Kelly told me that her father has a little pond with gold fish in it. In the winter it freezes over, fish and all. In the spring it thaws, and so do they. Just like that. Something...something...Cryogenics. starts with fish I guess.
And Dostoyevsky continues to deliver. Really packs some punches. Makes me think. Human nature. Things about faith. I shared before from page 47. Now on to page 155
"For even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ of old. When it has beenn attempted, the result has been only grotesque."

What a powerful statement. One to take to heart. One to really consider. Christ is the ultimate ideal. There is no better, no more worthy example for people, be they Christian or otherwise. But sadly, there is such a lack of really conforming to the mind of Christ on any level, in any sphere. And yet when we study Him, when we see what He was really like, how can anyone not be overwhelmed by the goodness of Him? Not long to have something of His heart inside? Still I fail, fail, fail.
So many thinks to think. How have I managed this little life. This little snippet of time in which I have time to think, to contemplate, to bask in the beauty of literature. Believe you me, taking on Dostoyevsky for fun is not something most people have the time or fortitude to do. But it is making me think, and I do have the time, because that just is what I have right now. I know it's fleeting, even while I don't know how long it will last, so I need to take hold of it and make something of it and all of that as well.
And now up past page 110 of my writing project. So maybe there is some reality in the myth of childhood dreams and I'll produce something. And I've at least amassed a small international following, faithful enough to buy something if my name is on it, or so they've said from time to time when I bring up the fact that I write. And at the moment it's true. I do write. But still hard to say what much it will come to.
I also spend time doing pointless sort of searches. There are those addictions like facebook that are so easy to succumb to when one has time.
I found through a friend's page (and an actual friend at that, not just an acquaintance or someone I knew once when I might even have been another person entirely myself) a link to a list that talks about things that let you know you're an English major. This April marked the 9 year point. 9 YEARS!!! 9 years that have come and gone since I ceased to be a practicing English major sitting in a classroom of peers and dissected literature and felt the rush of knowing and discovering and informing others of the rightness of my particular opinion. 9 years, and yet I looked at that list and with more than half of them I nodded my head. And with many I thought, how could someone NOT feel or know those things. Like the differences between there, their and they're.
Then I thought of things that would be on such a list if it was talking about knowing you're an English teacher. Like when you use "use to" and "used to" which sound precisely the same when spoken. Or what phrasal verbs are an exactly why they're so confusing to language learners. I could go on and on, but Katcha needs to go out, and I don't mind. I've been sitting here awhile as before I started this post I added a good ten pages to my story. Memories of writing 3 massive papers in one day because my computer was accidentally murdered, after the only time in my history that I actually wrote papers early. (sigh)
And so adieu. And off to walk the dog.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

So comes September

It's September...and I'm still in the Czech Republic. Not teaching mind you, just being here. It's kind of eerie. Today I was out walking the dog and watching the school children. It seems almost wrong to be here and not be teaching. But that appears to be the way things are, and now that my employment visa is finished there's nothing I can do about it. I now have up to three months in the Shengen Zone as a tourist before I must return to the US. Hopefully I'll be home before then, but it all depends on how quickly we can get the visa process finished up.
For the time being, however, I'm trying to make the most of things. The weather, which has been grim for most of the summer, has not improved. Surprise, Surprise. But such is life, and having lived in Oregon for a number of years you'd think I'd be well accustomed to this way of being.
This past weekend I didn't travel very far away physically, but I did take a journey back in time. I went for Karina's birthday party on Friday night, and stayed through for the celebration of the Waldstein Festival on Saturday. Last year we were totally out of town and missed the whole thing, but all my other years I've had a chance to at least enjoy a portion of this blast from the past.
The highlights this year:
1.) I've never been a big sausage fan. For those with any sort of background on my life, my food picky-ness is, well, epic. I'm the girl that people dreaded having to feed because you never knew what I might do. Not to mention how my poor dear mother felt putting up with me. While I did manage to put away 8 hot dogs in one sitting (not my finest hour!) anything more "interesting" than a hot dog and it's mysterious composition has caused me to turn up my nose. This year, however, I decided to be brave and join the crew in tasting "Certik" (pronounced Cher-teek) on the recommendation of Caleb (for those who know him.) This particular sausage is long and thin and totally black on the outside. It is wrapped inside a large potato pancake that has first had garlic ground on top of it. Fortunately the inside of the sausage was not black, and the taste was pretty innocuous. Needless to say, I still don't really want to know what it was made of, or why it was black in the first place, but I got the whole thing down with the help of a giant Czech pickle, another thing I had to get used to at first as they taste more like a cross between a sweet and a dill pickle from the US.
2.) The battle! Unlike two years ago when they constructed a make shift bridge to battle on, this year it took place in an old overgrown soccer field. It was a lot easier to see this time and I even managed a few good pictures.

3.) The pottery in the market was fantastic. Unfortunately, at this point in time the last thing I need to be doing is buying something big and fragile to try hauling back to the States. Fortunately, Karina bought something, so I could at least rejoice in her pretty new blue mug :)
In all it was a fun weekend, and included seeing lots of friends that I don't see much of anymore now that I live a whopping 30 minute train ride away. And, of course, they'll all be a whole lot busier now that school is back in.
Of course there are other things I've been doing to occupy my time besides the weekend travel. I've been taking pictures of mushrooms of course. Not that I've really changed my feelings about mushrooms, but there are so many different kinds here and I'm pretty fascinated by them.

To my knowledge, none of the above photographed mushrooms are edible. I think it's funny that the red ones are sort of the definitive image of a mushroom, and yet they're very poisonous. I just always picture a cute little forest mouse sitting under them. Guess I wouldn't want to eat the mouse either...
These little beauties, on the other hand, are most definitely edible.

I whipped up these delectably delicious cookies yesterday and the whole family has been enjoying them. Good to know I can still make the classics. I made Mac and Cheese last week as well. Nice.
On a final note, I've also been taking some serious time to work on my literary achievements. Not only have I been reading a lot, but I've also been writing and have made it past the 100 page mark! Pretty impressive since I couldn't even begin to tell you the last time I did that. Not since High school when I actually managed to complete two novels. So perhaps the old dream is not as dead as it may have appeared for several remains to be seen if anyone will want to actually read it, but there's always hope. So while everyone else is heading back to school, at least I'm finding some way to make myself useful, or perhaps it's better to say, to keep myself busy...