czech republic missionaries

Czech Diary, August 2005

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic
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Friday 26th August 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve & Varya)

Varya: After returning from a FANTASTIC and relaxing week in Austria, I feel as if I have been slapped in the face today by a bit of culture shock and Czech bureaucracy :0(

(if you want to avoid a bit of a rant, then please go straight down to Steve’s bit :0)

Having been instructed by my doctor to attend a local clinic for (pregnancy related) blood tests, I dutifully do not eat/drink before attending, and make my way there at about 8 o’clock this morning. I’m told there is a problem (as I have to pay for the treatment, and this always seems to put the workers in a bit of a panic). After waiting a while, I’m asked to pay in advance for the tests, and then advised that they can only carry out 3 of them — I need to go to the hospital for the other 3. After being given my blood samples in an envelope, I traipse off to the aforementioned facility, about 10 mins walk away. When I arrive, I locate the right building, only to be told that I need to go to a different part of the hospital (the more modern part); once I locate this dept., I’m advised to go to the information desk, as they can’t help me. From here, I’m directed through a maze of buildings, and when I eventually locate the correct one, I breathe a sigh of relief and approach the receptionist, hopeful that soon I will have had the full complement of tests, and that I can head off and have some breakfast...

20-30 mins later, I am still alone in the waiting room, unattended to. When the receptionist arrives, she tells me that I must pay an exhorbitant amount for the following tests, and she appears to be asking for payment for the samples that I brought from the clinic. I show her my receipt, but this does nothing to dispel her request. I explain that I do not have enough money, and that I’ll need to walk to the bank to get some, at which point she hands me two envelopes containing my erstwhile samples, and gives me detailed instructions of the two opposite ends of the hospital that they must be conveyed to (by me, the patient..), before the other tests can be carried out. All of this took place in Czech, and I kept asking her to repeat things and slow down, but to little avail.

I attempt to locate the first dept. but her instructions lead me to a dead end where builders are working, and at this point, I collapse on the grass in a flood of tears — it’s now about 10:40, and I feel confused, hungry, slightly faint and nauseaus, and completely lost and stupid. I can’t face going back and trying to comprehend the instructions, after which I’ll need to walk to and from the bank; wait; have more blood tests and then deliver them to the appropriate depts. of the hospital. SO I decide to walk home, eat toast and drink tea, and then collapse in bed to rest (which is what the doctor has instructed me to do a lot of - rest, that is).

I can’t wait to be back in “English”-speaking Scotland...

Steve: Benji started skolka (kindergarten) again today, and we were thrilled that he has been looking forward to it! In the weeks that he’s been off, he has grown physically, emotionally and in confidence. When I picked him up this afternoon he showed me how he can shoot hoops at basketball! So many new skills...


Thursday 25th August 2005, Stockerau to Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


Taking a different route from Vienna to Ceske Budejovice, we drove via Znojmo and Telc. It took a bit longer, but we’d heard that Telc was beautiful, and indeed it is. The town square is just something else again.

It’s a shame that Znojmo, surrounded by an abundant grape harvest and beautiful South Moravian countryside, marks itself as being a pit of depravity if the billboards and signs are anything to go by. My goodness.

Telc house 1Telc house 2Telc house 3Telc house 4Telc house 5
Telč’s town square is surrounded by fantastic houses


Tuesday 23rd August 2005, Vienna, Austria (Steve)

Vienna - brass elephant
Viennese sculpture

Benji at lock on Danube
at lock on Danube

When in Vienna, visit Cafe Central. It’s here that Freud is said to have sat and penned his works; looking around the vaulted interior and listening to the pianist on the Bösendorfer we failed to identify anything “Freudian” about the environs... we guess his inspiration lay elsewhere. Cafe culture here is fantastic. Coffee is served with a glass of water and a small chocolate on the side, and there’s no pressure whatsoever to move on once your coffee is finished. Did I mention pricey?

Sunday 21st August 2005, Vienna, Austria (Steve)

Benji and Steve operating diggerVienna Zoo is the oldest in Europe — only about 250 years old! A great family day out (if a bit on the pricey side). Favourites: The hippos, giraffes (beautiful), giant pandas, giant fruit bats hanging upside down and stretching. Benji’s favourite: a small scale crane/digger that we sat at together working the levers to move sand from one side of the enclosure to the other.

Yesterday afternoon I took Benji for a bike ride out through the extensive woods to the Danube river. Crossing over a dam, we found lock gates large enough to transport large barges up and down. Benji watched fascinated as a large riverboat from Sofia sped into the lock on the top side, the gate went up and the boat slowly sank from view. A few minutes later and many metres lower at the foot of the dam, it sped off again, the top decks populated with sunbathers and a large chess set.


Thursday 18th August 2005, Stockerau (near Vienna), Austria (Steve)

honey stall in market, Stockerau
buying honey in market stall

HOLIDAYS AT LAST! We haven’t had a family holiday just to ourselves for... seems like years.

Benji and Toby in gardenOur friends Rick and Anne-Marie work for OM in Austria, and we’re house-sitting for their family for the next week. They are fellow New Zealanders (yay! — Steve) and act like it. The kids run around in the back yard with bare feet. The BBQ is on for almost every meal. There are bits of a NZ Herald in the living room, and drinks mats with kiwis on them (that’s the bird for you non-Kiwis out there - if you don’t understand that, look it up.)

Having lived in Scotland for so long, I had nearly forgotten that Kiwi BBQs don’t involve casting nervous glances heavenwards to check for rain; they don’t involve the hubby/dad wearing a raincoat standing outside flipping burgers before slapping them in a wet plate for the kids inside in the lounge...

We’re going to have a great week.


Saturday 13th August 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


The temperatures have fallen a bit; autumn must be on its way. A cool wind is blowing outside and Varya has taken Benji out for a walk to let him burn off some energy and give me a chance to update the diary.

Benji’s chess is improving! A few weeks ago he had discovered the chess set and asked Varya to teach him. “Not till you’re about 7 or 8” she had replied, but arriving home later I didn’t know about that... so he asked me, and I showed him how to set up the board. He can now set up the board by himself, and I have taught him how to make all the basic moves. This morning he even showed a spark of strategy, thinking ahead 1 move. It’s still early days, but he’s at least enjoying it.

Friday 12th August 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Our phone rang at 5:15AM. I just knew it would be my brother from New Zealand! As great as it was to catch up, it did deprive us of some much needed sleep... (thanks Bro!)

Our church band was off at Prachatice for another worship night tonight. I suppose it might be the last one that we do together like this, now that Varya and I are leaving. Oh man, this is going to be hard. I’ve never been with such a well matched bunch of musicians before, so there go our plans for a second CD. I suppose that the worship nights will still go ahead, but it’ll be different without keyboard.


Wednesday 10th August 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


Knowing that we’re needing to make a decision on whether to stay in the Czech Republic or not, one of our ministers from Queen’s Park Baptist in Glasgow has come out to visit us. With all the phone calls (thanks everyone!) and having Peter visit, we are feeling so well supported! We’re amazed at how much is going on at QP, and have been reminded again that because of the EU expansion, Glasgow has many more Central/East Europeans now than when we left in 2004. If/when we return, there will be ministry opportunities a-plenty.

So we have pretty well made up our minds now. We’re going to return to Scotland, aiming for the end of October or start of November. A meeting with Peter + the OM Czech leader today confirmed that there is not going to be any meaningful movement on some of the key issues in our team. Those, plus the difficult financial situation have made up our minds. We’re very disappointed about it, but happy to have made a decision and not have to stress about our future here any longer.

We would still value your prayers for us at this time.

Glasgow, here we come!


Tuesday 9th August 2005, Ceske Budejovice / Prague (Steve)


This morning I stumbled across TuxPaint, a kids’ drawing programme originally for Linux, but ported to MacOSX. Benjamin has taken to it like a penguin to an iceburg, and the problem is that Mr Bossyboots now wants to spend as much time on my computer as I do. Grrr. I can’t say he’s the most artistic of 4 year olds, but his motor skills on the trackpad and mouse button are excellent, and he has picked up how to use it in no time at all.

I spent the afternoon in Prague seeing the tax advisor in Prague again regarding employment and tax issues for OM. Though I have no background in tax, I’m getting the hang of the situations pretty well.

There was some very good news regarding the ways that OM CZ can employ people from other EU countries, called the EU Sending Contract. In short, it allows an employer to employ a worker in a home country, and send the worker to work in another EU state. Social insurance (eg UK National Insurance) can be paid in the sending country, and income tax in the receiving country. This has lots of advantages, eg pensions are maintained only in the home country. Also, National Insurance in the UK is far cheaper than that in the Czech Republic, so it could save a lot of money. Still, the cost of us staying here is still looking prohibitive. With some of the other situations going on here, we have lost the will to try to raise the finances.


Thursday 4th August 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


I used to be all old-fashioned about wanting to know things like the sex of a baby before it’s born. Varya doesn’t have the same qualms, and, let’s face it, it’s gonna make it easier for us to know in advance.


... it’s a boy! We’re absolutely delighted. There was a moment when the gynaecologist and I saw irrefutable evidence on the ultrasound monitor :-)

Though the baby is healthy and doing very well, Varya is still not doing so well. The doc ordered bed rest for her, basically for the rest of the pregnancy. This obviously affects things like our hoped-for holiday in Vienna in a couple of weeks, Varya’s ability to do English teaching in the next term, and even our decision on whether to stay here or go home to Scotland. Varya’s nesting instinct is getting pretty strong by now :-)


Tuesday 2nd August 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


Varya has been feeling movements from the baby for days now, but today I felt the first kicks too! What an awesome process is the creation of a tiny baby!


Saturday 30th July 2005, English Camp, Dobra Voda, Sumava mountains (Steve)


Shooting the movie finished yesterday, so today was a 10 hour editing stint to have it ready for tonight. 10 hours editing for 10 minutes of movie. No wonder real movies are so expensive to make. But it came off well. I enjoyed seeing and hearing the audience laughing their way through parts of it, then coming to a shocked silence when they realised what had actually happened. There may be a way I can put some of it on-line, but unfortunately we used copyrighted music on the soundtrack, so it can’t all go up.

Coming to the end of the camp we’re all completely exhausted. But we’ve made loads of new friends, renewed old acquaintances, communicated an awful lot, and used all our reserves of creativity. And a new bunch of people have met Christians who didn’t fit normal stereotypes, who were fun, friendly, willing to talk about their faith, and were above all real.

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