Monday, May 30, 2011

Chebicek :)

So Cheb doesn't exactly have the best name in the Czech Republic. It's a border town. When "freedom" came, naturally quite a lot of garbage came with it, and there are shady businesses with a strong foothold in the town. But there is also an ancient history and a collection of beautiful ancient buildings. I've got a number of past posts that go into issues about the town and the culture that is amassed there. No doubt plenty of pictures litter the pages of this blog as well, but, in the name of preserving the past, I thought it only right to write a little tribute to Chebicku where I spent three years of my life. From the ancient square with it's charming cluster of "bizarre" buildings known as Spalicek, to the spires of St Mikolas cathedral and peaceful monastery gardens, down to the ancient castle and the peaceful river walk, Cheb has a lot to give beyond those shady issues.

I'll let you try to match up which pictures go with which titles above. I've had trouble getting them to download in the order I want them if I don't put them in one at a time, which is a bit of a time waster, so it can be a matching exercise instead.
I won't take the time to put in pictures of all the amazing people that I got to work with, the staff and students that made it such a joy to be there, but I'll share a few of the blessed faces of those I was privileged to celebrate life together with during my time in Cheb. I explored these city streets for many hours with these ladies and I thank them all for the conversations we shared in this special little Czech town.

I think this is where I'll end my little trip down memory lane. All the posts from my last year in Czech are still pretty fresh and easy to review if people are interested. Now I guess this means I'll have to get back to posting about the present or something crazy like that. It's been good for me to reminisce, and I hope you've all enjoyed it as well. While living in the past isn't a healthy life choice on a daily basis, there is beauty in reliving the moments that make life unique and special. And it is always good to pay tribute to those who have brought joy to those moments as well. With one last pose the transient drifter will now transition back to the recent past.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Year of trips with Laura

Okay, so it might be a slight overstatement so say that all my trips were with Laura, but most of them were, and she shows up a lot on my favorite pictures, so this is definitely a highlight of her.
It's been so much fun going over these past photos. Makes me want to go back and reread all my blogs. (They're a LOT more user friendly than my journals after all.) It was so hard to narrow down the photos for this post, because there are just so many that I absolutely love. I'll confess, this also is a bit of a poser post. There's no denying that I enjoy it. It's hard to explain why, considering the fact that I wouldn't generally consider myself even vaguely photogenic. There's just something about trying to capture the look of the moment that I can't resist.
I've been pretty remiss on posting photos of my actual life in Czech. Perhaps we'll get a post to close things off where I highlight that as well. But this time we're going to cover top trips of 2008/2009.
The first stop on our tour? Vienna, Austria where I got to rock it up with old Hong Kong friends from Memphis, Rebecca and Rachel. Funny where you find people, eh? Note: no pictures of Laura in this section...

Okay, so it might be a slight overstatement so say that all my trips were with Laura, but most of them were, and she shows up a lot on my favorite pictures, so this is definitely a highlight of her.
The trip was for over my birthday weekend. Nice to live in Czech where my birthday is a national holiday so I had three days to have the crash course tour. Check out my November posts if you want to see more.
My next stop on the tour was a whirlwind trip through the south central countries of Hungary and Slovakia, where, thanks to other ESI teachers, we were able to take in the sights of Budapest (where Laura and I were aided by Joanna)

where we learned that culture shock is still possible thanks to the fogadunks one can fall into when railway workers go on strike and pizza parlor workers think they can comment on your portion sizes.
Next up, a quick stop in Bratislava for a Christmas Eve celebration with other ESIers.

Since we were only there for one day we'll limit it to one picture.
After a brief stopover in Prague for Christmas with Kelly, we move right along with the tour to Florence, Italy. Trains are pretty fabulous, although chatty Naples guy didn't seem to get the fact that we were in a sleeper car for a reason...

Maybe I went a little overboard on the photo parade here, but it was sooooo hard to cut myself back. Seriously. Fabulous. Country. I'll never forget the time spent staring at the David. Not because he was a massive naked guy, but because of the incredible awe inspiring detail. To imagine some man looked at a big old slab of rock and was able to find a work of art inside. Truly astounding. Not a sight to be missed. Of course, it's also not a sight to be photographed, so you'll just have to put up with more pictures of me and Laura posing. I had a rather powerful influence on her as you can see :D
From Italy we scurry along to Berlin for a fabulous week long stay with Ben and Sarah. As a special note, it was during this week of trekking about the incredible city by myself, that I spent time trying to figure out just how life might be if I got to know Mark better. Never did I guess what was coming.

Did I mention how hard it was to narrow down my photo selections. And, what a poser I've become? It can all be clearly evidenced here, even without my written description.
The next stop on this tour is Poland. This last excursion with Laura and our boss Kelly, was a quest for the marvelous pottery that is hand crafted there. We even rented a car for this trip. Seeing how much I love driving, and how living in Europe means very little opportunity for this pass time, I was overjoyed by the fact that neither of these lovely ladies know how to operate a standard transmission, thus making my driving skills essential.

Last but not least, I had the chance to travel to Nurnberg with Laura and her family when they came to visit. Being the most well traveled amongst us, and having been there at least twice before, I was in charge of making sure that everything went smoothly. Not to let this get to my little tour guide head, I naturally made a massive mistake that left us stranded in several wrong cities, only to have to take a very expensive taxi in the end. Not a mistake I'll make again let me tell you!

It's true what they say, Czech really is in the very heart of Europe. Making it an ideal starting off point for all your European travel dreams. If you want my advice, just go.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Remember when?

Definitely on a blast from the past kick. Going through all those pictures has stirred up the urge to review the past. So we're going with a few more oldies but goldies. Perhaps this will inspire a little trip down memory lane through my blog archives. I promise there are LOTS of other great pictures where these ones came from, but I just couldn't put up everything from all my trips. I give you now a few sneak peaks into the life of my 07-08 school year. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the photos from my Sweden/Norway Christmas trip, so they'll be missing from this first year line up. Otherwise, this is a little tribute to most of the countries I visited during my first year in Czech. Maybe, just maybe, looking at these will give people the impression that I did live a tourist sorta lifestyle. I think that's just because I'm such a poser. Funny thing is, when I lived in Hong Kong, the absolute land of posers, I was pretty lousy at it. Just takes me a while to warm up I guess :)
We'll start this line up with:
Remember when I used to live here?

That's right, we went all the way back to Skalka. I don't think you can truly say you've experienced local Czech living until you've put in some time in a panalok. Not that I actually recommend this type of accommodation, but it at least was roomy, providing Naomi and me with our own separate space. To see the video tour you can check here. I put a lot of time and effort into this video, and it really is worth it.
Remember when Crystal and I went on the wild ride with a German student to Nurnberg to enjoy the Christmas Market?

It was a super crazy day, made even more random when we ran into a group of our teachers from Slovakia. Couldn't have planned it like that if we'd tried.
Remember when I went to Salzburg with Nicole?

I just got off the phone with Nicole, and it was so great to hear her sweet Canadian voice in my ear as we reminisced about all the traveling that we did together. Salzburg was our first really epic journey. From the Sound of Music and Salt Mines Tour to racing around to get pictures of the monastery and walking for absolute ages to find a place to eat, check out posts from February 2007 for more pictures of this little getaway.
Remember when Naomi and I took a 13 hour bus ride to London and got dropped off at 3AM?

We might have had slightly different sight seeing agendas, but there's no denying that this was an incredible experience for Spring Break '08. Yeah, it really might look like we traipsed around a lot, but I swear the work was REALLY hard the first year. Lesson planning got a lot easier with time, but since we had a serious 25-30 minute walk to work we spent most of the day in town rather than walking back and forth. It was exhausting. We really NEEDED these trips.
Remember Prague and just how fabulous it is?

I could put in lots more photos of Prague, but since I'm thinking of covering a couple more years in review I thought it best not to overkill.
Remember when Naomi and I went to Poland for Easter? The fated trip where Crystal missed the train by minutes, and where we were awed by the massive quantity of shrubs the Polish people grew?

The train ride was long, but we managed to be spared being beaten for Easter so we were happy.
Remember when Nicole, Crystal and I discovered the wonders of Rothenburg?

It was so nice of the Czechs to have so many holidays so we could get away on three day weekends. Definitely made it a lot easier to take in the wonders around us.
Remember when we had that canoe trip to Cesky Krumlov where I didn't canoe cause I'm too freaked out about falling in the water?

Here's a whole slew of people that made this final trip of the school year amazing.

Definitely a lot of memories from year one. And this doesn't even take into account the times spent getting to know students, or most of the traveling we did in the country. Semi-charmed kind of life, anyone?

Sunday, May 22, 2011


So I've been promising photos for quite some time now, but perhaps this is not quite the direction most would suspect that to come. Over the past weekend I've been rather obsessively going through all my old photos. From looking at my scrapbooks, to downloading every photo CD I could find onto my external hard drive, I've been inundated with images of the past.
I remember back before my ten year high school reunion, thinking how I might look a bit lacking in the life accomplishments department. I had no husband, and therefore no children (truth be told, I still hadn't even had a boyfriend) no career, no life savings, and no life plan laid out. I had that uncomfortable feeling that people might look at me as a bit of a flake. I hadn't gone out and done any of the things I'd said I would do. In the letter I wrote to myself as a senior in high school, mailed to me five years later by my Senior Soc teacher, I'd demanded that I make something of myself. I was to be in a committed relationship, have at least one book published, and still be in perfect contact with all the people who meant something to me when I was 18. By 28 I'd managed to get a degree in English, live in two countries and three or four different states. I'd had countless jobs that either didn't amount to much or pay much. I was on my way to a teaching job in the Czech Republic where I was, once again, going to make peanuts. But what I did have, that few other people were likely to possess, were thousands of pictures from all over Asia. I've now added thousands of pictures from all over Europe, and more international experiences than most people who are not involved in international business or independently wealthy.
It's easy for me to just think of my life as normal, because for me, it is. Yesterday, my sister commented on how I've lived a "vacation lifestyle." I wouldn't exactly call it that. I've worked really hard, and generally for a pittance if anything at all. But I've been phenomenally blessed to see the world on a budget that would make most people believe that traveling across the state would be pushing it. God built me with the travel bug, and has helped me live the dream.
So now, without further blabbing, I'm going to take you on a brief journey through past travels. Despite the hundreds of pictures from Hong Kong that I downloaded on my computer (most of them being from other people because I didn't have a functioning digital camera a lot of my time there) I have even more in hard copy form, so this really will be just a glimpse of that world. Enjoy.

Hong Kong Really is the city of life. I just adore the skyline.
The "Bowen Girls" made their way to Hong Kong from around the world. I was so blessed by these amazing women, as well as the Chinese staff. What wonderful, beautiful, and incredibly fun people. They helped to open my eyes to cultures from all over the place, and the joy of expanding your experiences and horizons.

And of course there was also the amazing local staff. This is from a wedding of one of my Chinese colleagues Karen.

And then there was 180 and the Vine. A place where I grew in my spiritual life, and developed a greater appreciation for the variations of backgrounds and personalities in the family of God.

And last on the whirlwind tour, the reason I came to Hong Kong in the first place, the babies who gave my life new meaning and who I was privileged to lavish love on.
It's been more than six years now since I left Hong Kong. Hard to believe how quickly it has gone, and how it still feels so close to my heart. I have no idea when I'll have a chance to return again, but the City of Life will always be in my blood.