22 September, 2010

You Forgot It In People

Capture the Flag started to play as the tram took off. Yesterday, Kelsey and I finalized plans for a small holiday in November. In preparation for the Broken Social Scene and Menomena show in Holland, I thought it would be fun to experience Brno with a soundtrack.

After three or four days of looking out the windows on the tram, I began reading. And I've finished my first book :). It was, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. It is a journal of the author's life as he augments his skin pigmentation from white to black in 1959, before freedom rides, Rosa Parks and the great MLK jr. He keeps his same identity-name, credentials, clothes, etc.- the only thing that he changes is the darkness of the brown in his skin. He tours the southern states and tells you of his accounts.

I recently watched a movie called, Hurricane, with Denzel Washington and in the beginning there is a boy and his mentor attending a used book fair and the boy asks his mentor how on earth is he supposed to find a book. His mentor responded with something along the lines of the book often chooses you.

Black Like Me, as cheesy as it may sound, chose me. One of my favorite things about marrying Kelsey was his book collection. He has many books, all of which I plan to read. We were fortunate enough to take one small suitcase with us full of books, sketch pads, colored pencils and paints. When packing our apartment we were going through what books we wanted to bring with us, I would see a book and ask Kelsey if he thought it was a good one to bring and vice versa. When I came across Black Like Me Kelsey said it was an excellent book, but I should save space for a different book, so I put the book in the maybe pile and it ended up in the suitcase.

As I began reading this book, I felt this knot in my stomach that this wasn't going to be relevant to my life right now, that how could the integration era of the States be at all helpful to me, right now?

The Salvation Army or Armada Spasy has three centers that Kelsey and I help out with, all of youth clubs, Jonas (Pronounced: Yo-nush), Stankova (sta-nko-va, if that makes sense), and Kornerova (Korr (roll that R!)-nerr-o-vuh). Jonas has Czech kids that attend, while Stankova (the corps building) and Kornerova has gypsy kids that attend. Kornerova is in a particularly rough neighborhood and the kids there are different than any other kids I've ever dealt with (dealt is a bit of funny word here, but it will do). They are tough kids and very very clever. There is a sort of unspoken pecking order among the kids that surprises me every time I see it pan out. When I found out we were coming to the Cz. Rep., I was instantly excited about working with the gypsy or Roma community. I wanted to play games with them and hang out with them and love them. After being at that community center twice though, I felt like I didn't want to go back. I didn't want to be with the kids who picked on each other, who didn't know how to share and who didn't listen to anything anyone said. Then I started reading my book...

The book really did chose me. Or more so, God chose that book for me. I'm happy that I read it and I'm more happy that God supplied me with a heart for those children once again.

So, I've finished Black Like Me and have moved on to a book called, Green Revolution: coming together to care for creation by Ben Lowe. It is pretty self explanatory what it's about, you know taking care of what God has entrusted us with- a little thing called the earth... ever heard of it? Pretty important. Well, I've been reading that each morning and evening listening to Broken Social Scene and having beautifully scary moments with God. Feeling so convicted, thankful, hopeless, encouraged, enraged, confused about why we as humans, more so as Christians have stood back for so long throwing away creation...this is a tangent, more of a rant that I probably shouldn't get started on.

a great equation:
God + books + music = happiness.

Kelsey is sick, poor guy. I gave him my cold... I'm pretty good at sharing. Yesterday after work I didn't want to go straight home so I told him to go home and I would meet him later and bring home something yummy to eat later. I kissed him goodbye and very soon after I realized it was one of the best decisions of my life. I put on my Ipod, more BSS and Menomena and wandered around looking at the brightly painted multi-hundred year old buildings, trying my absolute hardest not to sing and dance with excitement. I felt free-not because I was without Kelsey, but because I could only think and wonder in amazement at each passing store, sign and person.

I live in Europe.

I live in the Czech Republic!

I live in Brno, serving God and his people! What a blessing God has given to me. I am almost in tears thinking about what I have on my plate right now, what task I have been given. How is it that God loves me so much even after I continue to let him down, that I am here. Here on behalf of Him. It blows my mind.

16 September, 2010

Concrete Games

Every morning, Kelsey and I walk a little over a mile (or about two kilometers) downhill to the tram stop. My bones feel wasted from walking the same mile uphill the night before and I'm usually hungry by this time. There is a lovely bread and pastry shop down at the tram stop, I get dva (2) stanbikovas for osm Korunas (8 Krowns or roughly 40 cents)- YUMMY!... I'm getting a bit off topic.

I find myself playing these games, that I did not agree to, that I for some reason know the rules and follow. There are cracks on the ground, there are lines on the ground, there is tons of cobble stone! Well the rules are quite simple actually, ten lives. If you step on a crack, you lose a life; if you step on the line where two stones meet, you lose a life; if you step on a solid painted line (note the solid) you get an extra life.

I find myself playing this game mostly when Kelsey and I are walking up to our flat. We are usually either pretending to know Czech and talking to each other or making some weird joke that I'm sure make the people around us know that we are foreign (of course nothing rude or belligerent) - we don't look Czech though, so people already know we're foreign, though I'm getting off subject again.

I fall into the same routine, avoiding the concrete lines and cracks, walking along the curb when there is lots of little cobble stone, going out of my way to make giant strides when the cross walk comes so I can get my extra lives. Kelsey will sometimes follow suit avoiding the same things or he'll run defense for the concrete and push me as I walk on the curb or pretend he's going to push me so that I flinch and lose my balance.

I just can't help it, I begin walking and automatically begin playing these concrete games.


09 September, 2010


Today marks a week of being here in the Czech Republic. Allow me to break down my first couple of days....

We arrived at the airport at 12:00 pm on September first; my husband, my mother, all ten of our bags (three suitcases and two carry-ons a piece) and me. Our flight was to leave at 2:50 pm and we were scheduled to land in Frankfurt, Germany at 10:35 am the next day... we were in for a long ride! After successfully navigating through LAX International we grabbed some lunch and waited to board our giant Lufthansa plane.

Kelsey, right after landing in Frankfurt, Germany for our one hour layover
23 hours later (taking into account the nine hour time difference) we arrive in Praha, Ceska Republika with nine bags... that's right, my biggest bag, with my favorite clothes and my uniform, was missing! I filed a report and we met Pavla and Ruth outside. We walked over to the car and our bags barely fit (maybe God was saying to me that my missing bag was a good thing). We headed over to the DHQ in Praha and met a few more people, Major Mike (Ruth's husband, in charge of Cz. Rep.), Ales (our new boss) and some others. I was barely awake and was being asked if I wanted tea or coffee every ten minutes, all I wanted was to go to my new home and sleep.

The original plan was that Kelsey and I would stay the night with Ruth and Mike and then drive to Brno the next morning with Ales. Thank the Lord that the plans changed! Ales drove us that night; we left for Brno about 5 o'clock. On the way, we spoke of likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and other things.... somewhere, I'd say about 35-40 minutes into the drive, I was wrapped in two new Armada Spasy fleece jackets, sitting in the back seat when my eyes felt warm and tired. I tried with all my might to stay awake, doing the embarrassing head-bob and the chime in to the conversation every so often, but the task was unmanageable. A little while later we arrived at McDonald's. From the parking lot it seemed like any old McDonald's, but when I stepped inside, I realized, McDonald's is taken very differently here! It was without a doubt the nicest MD I'd ever seen! There was a McCafe Coffee stand and there were booths with pillows and candles. The bathrooms had the double flush (half flush for liquid and full flush for solids) and the toilets were closed off from the sink area. We sat down and I began eating the biggest, freshest snack wrap I've ever seen when I asked Kelsey to go get some Ketchup. He stood and was stopped by Ales reaching into his pocket for some money. "You will need to pay for the Ketchup." We were stunned, the nicest MD and you had to pay for the condiments... how funny.

Finally, we arrive to our flat. It is fully equipped and I fall into bed and go to sleep no later that 8:30 pm.

Of course the next morning I wake up at 5:45ish am and start rummaging through cabinets. Folding my clothes and making eggs and toast. My bag was delivered that morning about 8:30 to my doorstep, oh joy I have my uniform! ;) This was Friday morning and for the most part this day was pretty uneventful. We met with Sarka and Ales (pronounced: Sharka and Alesh) for a couple of hours afterwards we bought our tram pass. We were showed around a bit, got our money exchanged and had mall food for dinner at a place called Panda, it was Asian food, but not Panda Express. On our way home, we were brave and told Sarka we could get home by ourselves.... we took the right tram home, but we had a mile to walk to our house uphill and we weren't sure what hill to take. We started walking and we look at a map and our building isn't there. So we walk another direction (mind you it is almost 8 pm and it is very dark outside) and we ask a man which way Teyschlova (our building and street) is and he points up the hill and through hand gestures, he makes out two buildings (oh yeah the whole, everyone speaks English-untrue! my life is currently a big game of charades), we were to go through them and there we would find our building. Thankfully, we got home. We were pooped. We got into bed and were asleep again by 8:30 pm.

My first meal cooked at home :)

Again, the next morning we wake up 5:45ish and we start getting ready. I put a converter on my computer speakers so that I can listen to the Ipod and it's working fine for about ten seconds when BAM the lights go out, I see sparks and something shoots me in the back. The power is out and it's 6 am so we can't call Ales and Sarka for help. We wait in our barley lit flat for 9 o'clock when we can call Sarka for help. She tells us to get a chair and flip the breakers in the box above the door (we searched everywhere for this box!), but nothing worked, so she said she would be over in an hour to fix it. We see her from the window as she and her two daughters, Eliska and Katka (Pro:Elishka and Kotkah) arrive. There is another breaker box in the corridor and they had flipped off, Sarka broke into the box and flipped them back on, she was my new hero. The girls left and Kelsey and I were starving. Our food was bad and we hadn't eaten all morning. In order to lock the door, even from the inside, you need to use your keys, so I thought to myself, we should just leave our extra key in the door. Bad idea. We go to lock our door from the outside and nothing, we can't turn the key, we try to open the door and nothing, we can't get in! I call Sarka and she comes back. She had to call a lock smith and 775 crowns later (that's $45 US) we are able to get into our house again. I was thoroughly embarrassed by the trouble I had gotten us into in the third day of being here.

There are many more funny little things, but I am running out of time to share.