Monday, July 13, 2009

Last Days in Czech

Oh my goodness so much has happened. I am sorry I didn't keep up with the blog as much, but it really has been non-stop. I am finally at a resting point today. It is so wonderful and needed. We all have head colds and sore throats because our bodies are mad at us for lack of sleep and extra traveling, hiking, singing, yelling, talking, crying, laughing, and running. But now we are in an apartment in Strakonice, west Czech Republic. If you woke up here you could be in an American apartment. The coffee was on, and it is all Americans hanging out re-grouping here. To show you where I've been in the past few weeks, here is a map I drew on.

The X is Prague, where I flew into but only saw the airport. 2. Malenovice- the place all the Americans went through training; it is the main headquarters for Josiah Venture in the Czech Republic. 3. Lesni Bouda- the lodge in the mountains where I spent most of my time with the Czech kids at camp. 4. Bohumilice- the place where a lot of the kids were from, which is in Southern CR in the region called Moravia, where they specialize in sunflower fields, vineyards, and warm weather. This was my personal favorite place even though I was there for only one night. 5. Strakonice- where I am now, at an American missionary's apartment who lives in the CR full time. She takes in American interns during the summer who need to do laundry and re-group. Tomorrow I will head to Prague and meet up with an American church team heading back to the states. I will hang out with them and hopefully get some good pictures in. Wednesday I'll be at the prague airport at 5:30 am, starting my journey back home.
It is a bittersweet feeling leaving here. I know I have purpose going back home and I miss everyone back home, but I feel like part of my heart will always be here with these people I met and the experiences I had. I saw God work in so many lives and heard so many amazing stories from Czechs who were changed by their trust in God. (Not to say you can't see this in America, but because of the atheistic, Darwinian culture here, putting their trust in God is a beautiful thing to see).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Winter Weather and Debates

I am not kidding about the title of this post- the weather here is like "winter" in Mobile. Cold rain and dense fog. I actually didn't go outside once yesterday because it is freezing cold and wet. The poor little sheep and goats are still out in the fields though. Although the sun is starting to come out this afternoon. I have a twenty minute break right now until a workshop. 

Class has been fun- yesterday we learned clothes and appearance so we played a clothing game. I called out pieces of clothing and they had to dress the "model" from their team. The pictures turned out really funny. Today we learned about travel and hobbies. I told one person on each team a place, verb, and transportation. They had to draw all of these things until their team guessed it. It was great because they had to put it all in a sentence to get the point. They would say, I go park...and play soccer!!" And I would say, nope say it correctly! And they would compete with the other team to say, "I will take A train to THE park and play soccer." They learned a lot today I think. Tomorrow we will do food and restaurant. It's the last day tomorrow...Wow. I am just now getting used to all my students and getting to know them more. 

I had lunch with 3 new girls today I had never met. I introduced myself to each of them saying, I don't think I've gotten to meet you yet. What's your name? And they would say, "Terka or Tereza" and I would be like, oh ok, I'm Katherine Anne, and they would all say, "yes, I know." Haha I guess they all talk about the Americans because people I haven't met yet already know my name. I don't know if that's good or bad. Hopefully good. I genuinely care about these teenagers. They are pretty much just like Americans, but maybe more logical, faster learners, less ignorant maybe? I genuinely enjoy and love every second of every conversation I have here. I care. I love hearing their opinions on life. And I think that makes a huge difference to them.

I've gotta run, I'll write about the "debates" later. Ahoy! (Bye!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hiking and Fruit Dumplings

It is so hard to write things down. I just wish someone could follow me around with a video camera so you could experience what I've experienced. Everything changes every day. New people, new ideas, new food, new sights, new experiences... But I decided to talk about the highlights of the past 2 days. Number one, we went on a hike. We left at 11 am to hike the mountain we are on to see the Poland border. We packed a lunch, including a pastrami sandwich, a buttered baguette, and a hard boiled egg. We also all received huge sparkling water bottles. As I hiked up the mountain, I got to know 3 girls, Iva, Eva, and Karol. Iva and Karol are in my class so it was cool to hang out with them on the hike. They just love practicing english! They are so precious and ready to learn and ask questions. The hike was actually pretty intense. We stopped for lunch around 1pm. Afterwards, one group hiked to see the Poland border (1km), and the other group hiked to the top of the mountain range (7km). 

I chose the shorter, easier hike. I was already dragging! These Europeans can hike! And the air here is thinner... On this second part of the hike I met Tomas. He is 17, very friendly, intelligent, and imaginative. Like most Czechs, he is also very logical and techinical. 
He likes fencing and creative things. Also loves physics and wants to study science. We talked for 2 hours yesterday about fantasy literature. I told him how I wrote a paper in high school
 connecting fantasy literature to politics, religion, and philosophy. He was so intrigued! Like, oh how did Harry Potter fit in? Or Narnia? And he was like, why do you think it is you like fantasy so much? I was like, well, I think there are elements in fantasy that we cannot experience here on earth. Sometimes people are immortal and I like that idea. And he was like, kind of like...Christianity? I was like, yes, in a way. Except I believe that it is a reality. He was like hmm... yes I would like that idea too. 

I think they all see religious people as harsh, narrow minded fools. So the fact that I encouraged his opinions and agreed with him on so many things threw him off. He said, in a good way. :-)

The kids are just brilliant here. But all of them grow up with a Darwinian outlook on life. Hmmm...

English class was great today and lunch was super fun. We ate fruit dumplings. It's basically dessert for lunch. Three heaping pastries filled with apricots topped with sweet cheese. They were simply amazing. I'd eat those for lunch any day.

Keep praying for us and for the kids here. I say kids, but they are all around my age or older. So, all of us. Just pray for God to use us in whatever way He wants. That we would know when to talk and when to listen. For us to be bold but also gentle. 

Side note/embarrassing cultural story- this morning I was extremely tired and out of it. I went to the counter downstairs to order coffee. I said, "Um, kava prosim?" He said, "Spresso?" (Meaning, we don't have actual coffee, only espresso. Is that ok?) And I automatically just said, "Si, si." Then I realized I was saying yes in spanish. I quickly corrected myself and said, "Uh no I mean, ano! Yes, ano!" (Ano means YES in czech. Who would have thought.) So the sweet man understood and served me espresso. Goodness. You know I have actually started to respond in Spanish to questions because it is my brain's automatic remedy to confusion/language barrier. Haha, I am still learning basic czech. It is muy loco. ;)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

First Day of Camp: Culture Shock

No amount of preparation could have prepared me for the first day. Haha. So far I've lived in the comfort zone of speaking English with the Americans on the team and the Czechs who speak English. A bus pulled up to the (I'm trying to think of the correct word here. The place we are staying is not exactly a hotel as we know it. It's a lodge in the mountains with a downstairs restaurant and upstairs rooms with a community bath. Hmm...hostel?) Well, a bus pulled up and 30 something Czech teenagers came out. After getting them settled in their rooms, I had 2 teenage Czech girls staring at me. I was like, umm do you want to play cards? We had 3 hours until dinner. So I got out my cards and they looked confused. Our playing cards are different than theirs. Nicol, one of the girls, pulled out her deck of cards, which were brightly colored with pictures and symbols on them. They were crazy! But we played a game like crazy 8's. The other girl in my room is named Monika. Later we went outside and threw the frisbee with a big group and played some funny name games. 
Everything went smoothly until I was introduced to my class. I prepared to have beginners, but it was still surprising to be in the midst of no English. We sat around in a circle and as I asked them questions, they responded in one word answers, and then continued to speak in rapid czech to their friends. As we sat in the circle and played a card game, I felt useless. My feeble questions like, "Where are you from?" and "How was the trip?" only merited one word answers. As I got to, "What are some of your hobbies?" The girls said sports and the guys said, "BEER! euiwfheaiw eiaf ai hfeuia!!!!" I was like, oh ok! Ha ha... 
However, the culture here is very beer oriented. This threw me off as an American but for Czechs, beer is like liquid bread. And as I started my lesson today, I really began to engage all of the students and learn more about them. The girls are Bara, Iva, and Karol. The boys are Tomas (pronounced Tomash) Milan, Pavel, and Vasek (Vash-ek). My translator is Jara (Yada), who is still learning English. Czechs are very logical- they are quick to understand and learn. They are also very respectful listeners and questioners. The students are here to learn and they get all afternoon to relax, so they are all enjoying themselves. I have already overheard conversations involving science and the concept of God. Tonight we will dive in to the first story of God and have discussion afterwards.

Please pray that we would not stop engaging, not stop loving, not stop giving 100%. I am already dragging on the second day. It is non-stop. I cannot wait to see how this week turns out. I've already picked my favorite Czechs (if I'm allowed to say that). I met a brother and sister last night who are amazing. We talked about Harry Potter for a solid hour. Whenever I suggested going to bed as it got to 10pm, 11pm, 12am, they just smiled and shrugged. They said they just loved speaking English and they didn't want to stop. I learned that the brother, who is 24, came to camp last year, but is not a Christian. Though he has such a peaceful, loving nature. It is interesting to me how some non-Christians could be the model for a lot of loud mouthed American Christians today. Hmm. 

Oh, as last night was the 4th of July, we celebrated with a bonfire and smores. The Czechs love smores! :-)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Leaving Malenovice and Travel

We left Malenovice at 7am this morning. We took a car to a train station and I rode my first train. We got off the train after an hour and moved to another train for 2 hours. Then we walked a short while to a bus station, and took a 2 hour bus ride to this beautiful place in the mountains. It looks like a European version of Colorado. There are ski lifts, houses, and hiking trails. We are preparing for the start of English camp tomorrow! The youth from Bohumilice will arrive tomorrow. I will have two Czech girls staying in my little room with me. 

 The city we passed through on the way up to the camp site. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Hello all. The internet has been down for the past 2 days so I am just now updating. We have been in training for english camps and the evening program. I can see already, from here, that God is doing some HUGE things. I did not know the full extent of how God was working through this organization until the president came and talked to us last night about how JV was started. It started with 5 Americans after Communism fell in 1989. With the new freedom to express religious ideas, they prayed that somehow they could reach the youth of Eastern Europe. They began one youth camp in the summer of 1990 and now have expanded to 11 different countries holding over 500 different camps every summer. 
Last night I heard a 19 year old Czech guy talk about his experience growing up in the most atheistic country in the world (Yes, the Czech Republic is) and how he was just taken aback by the friendly/loving nature of the Americans who invited him to camp. He went to camp merely for the fun of it for 3 years before he seriously considered becoming a Christian. He is an extremely intelligent guy, he said his parents read him encyclopedias before bed. (No joke). He grew up believing in the power of science and under a Darwinian outlook on life. His 3rd camp he realized that no knowledge he had could give him the joy he found at these camps. He said, okay God, if you are real, let me know. He said as he sat there that night, he felt all around him and inside him something powerful, something supernatural. Tears came to his eyes as he recalled this memory. He said, he simply knew in that moment, that God was real. He became a Christian that night.
As we are preparing for camp, so many things come to mind. We take it for granted the accessibility of Christianity in America. These kids do not have youth groups. Church is an antiquated and irrelevant idea in most of Europe. I was talking to a Czech guy who studies in Scotland for school and he told us how they have turned churches in Scotland into bars at night. They are a tourist attraction during the day and a disco/bar at night. I wonder how God feels about that... Wow.
The days here are a balance of work and play. As you can see in the picture, Malenovice is a beautiful place. The huge building is the training center for Josiah Venture, purchased and renovated by volunteer work and donations. I wake up on my own to sunlight coming through the windows and a cool breeze. The breakfast is out of this world. It has been one of the most wonderful places I've been to in my life. Tomorrow I will leave this enchanting place to go to the village of Bohumilice, a rural village 5 hours away. Saturday I will meet my small group who I will teach for the week.
Please pray for our team and the youth in Bohumilice. I can't wait to meet them and share the love and hope that comes only from God. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Welcome to Prague

(Merely travel stories, nothing cool yet)

I arrived in Prague at 12:20 pm, thinking I would be greeted by fellow Josiah Venture people. I came out of customs, walked around, walked, looked, walked, nobody, no sign, nothing. I came to the Czech Republic on my own and was really, on my own. I decided to stay put right at the place where people came out. An hour passed. Two hours passed. I got antsy. I went to the other terminal to see if they were there. Nope. Came back, got on my computer and scoured the internet for phone numbers. I finally found a cell phone number on facebook of one of the main guys who leads the camps, Nate. I swiped my credit card on a phone and dialed a ridiculously long number. Finally I got an answer and had to explain myself. He was like, oh they're there I'll let them know you're at the terminal. So I looked around and sure enough a group of 3 girls started looking around too. They came up to me and asked my name and I was finally connected to them! There were 2 czech girls, Jitka and Lutska, and Nate's wife, Emily.  

But then, we had to wait for other teams to arrive. So I found this chair in the airport. I think it was made out of metal? And sat in this chair, drifting in and out of sleep for 8 hours. Yes, I was at the Prague airport from 12:20 to 8:30pm. I had to take a picture of the sign that said "Welcome to Prague". I looked at the sign quite a bit.

The thing was, since I'm an independent traveler, I kind of meshed in with the "leader" people instead of church groups, so they had to receive groups at the airport and usher them out to taxis so they could make their train to the campsite. So the last flight got in around 8:30pm, which is when I left with the Czech leaders. We walked out of the airport, it was cold and rainy, to a small car with a trailer hitched on the back. I was with 2 czech girls and 1 czech guy. We're all standing out in the rain at the car trying to figure out how to pack my luggage in the already packed to the brim car. They were all speaking in rapid czech while I just stood there getting wet with my 3 pieces of luggage. After we managed to cram everything in and they stopped talking in czech, Jitka said, "Next time- pack light." Woops.

So I rode in the car with Jitka, Lutska, and David while they spoke in Czech 5-6 hours to the place I am in now, Malenovice. We start training in hmm 6 hours? It's 3am here.

So on that note, I am going to bed. I got a shower, I'm clean, I'm safe. Goodnight.