czech republic missionaries

Czech Diary, December 2004

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic
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ski lift at Lipno

Friday 31st December 2004, Lipno (Varya)

Spent the day with a Czech friend, on ski slopes near Lipno. We didn’t ski — tobogganing was fun though. Benji enjoyed his first ride on a chairlift, winding slowly up the mountain, through the softly descending snowflakes.

This evening, Steve went to our church party for a wee while, and then joined me and one of our friends, as we sipped Bailey’s and listened to Deep Purple and Thunder... a really relaxing evening, and a good end to the frenetic year that 2004 has proved to be...

We miss our friends in Scotland, who we have joined for Hogmanay (New Year) parties, for the last 5 years. It was great to phone and talk with them, and hear the party going on in the background :0)

Happy New Year to you all (for our Czech readers - St’astny Novy Rok!)


Tuesday 28th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

It has become clear that one of my Mum’s cousins, and his son, were caught up in the tsunami, whilst on holiday, and remain unaccounted for. His wife and daughter have survived, and are preparing to return home to Sweden. Please pray for them...


Monday 27th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

This afternoon, one of our friends arrived with fresh rabbit (that his grandmother had killed), and it was all hands on deck to prepare a delicious Spanish dish — full of really chunky vegetables — rustic cuisine! One of our colleagues also joined us for dinner. We were a real “league of nations”, with representatives from Czech Republic, Scotland, New Zealand and South Korea!


Sunday 26th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

The world has been stunned by the horrific tsunami which has obliterated much of the coastlines of Sri Lanka and Indonesia, as well as many others. It’s impossible to imagine the horror of one moment enjoying a family beach holiday, and the next being engulfed by a wall of water. Our hearts and our prayers really go out to those whose worlds have been turned upside down by this disaster...

bridge over the Malse

Christmas Day, Saturday 25th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Still no snow! The temperature is up around 10°C, and the sky is clear and blue. The Malše river still has a lot of ice on it, and Benjamin and I took turns breaking bits of ice and throwing them into the water.

We’re amazed at the generosity of all our friends and family. We’ll thank you all individually, but -- thanks so much everyone!


Friday 24th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Realised today that the strange smell in the stairwell of our apartment building is not some rubbish that hasn’t been taken out, but the smell of carp being cooked in every apartment in the neighbourhood! Christmas in the Czech Republic is celebrated tonight, with a traditional meal of carp and potato salad served at 6PM, followed by the exchanging of gifts. We’ve decided to have a bi-cultural Christmas, and do the Czech and British things! Varya had prepared all the carp and potato salad earlier in the week with a Czech friend, and it tasted great. Opened the first few prezzies too — the (bemused) postie has been busy delivering parcels from all over the world to our door, and it’ll take more than one evening to open them all!

Thursday 23rd December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Varya’s home from Prague with her Mum, so tonight her Mum and I went off to a Christmas concert of choral and orchestral music. There’s a Czech baroque composer by the name of Ryba (“Fish”!) whose Christmas Mass is a sort of Czech institution at Christmas time. Our friend and Czech teacher Miša is in the choir, so we enjoyed seeing her, and listening to the music. Fabulous — Christmas has truly begun!

Wednesday 22th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

FINALLY got all my forms completed for the visa extension, and I’m told that it will be ready before the end of the month! Hooray!

Varya left this morning for Prague where she’s picking up her Mum from the airport. They’ll come down on the train tomorrow.

museum, Jindřichův Hradec

Tuesday 21th December 2004, Jindřichův Hradec (Steve)

Christmas holidays! Varya, Benji and I have been off to Jindrichuv Hradec today, a delightfully historic South Bohemian town. In the museum there’s “the world’s biggest mechanical nativity scene”. We had told Benjamin that we were going to see the baby Jesus, but when we got to the nativity scene we found he was expecting to see a real live baby!

Nativity scene
just 1 tiny part of a 5 metre long nativity scene!

Monday 20th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Off to the “foreign police” again to deliver some paperwork for my visa extension. This time I talk to someone who can actually speak a little English! One of the forms I had to deliver was certification from our landlords that we do in fact have accommodation. Alas, they had not filled in my middle name, so the form did not completely match my name on my passport, therefore it’s back to the landlords again to get them to fill it in again and countersign. Grrrr. Kafka-esque.

If they don’t give me my visa extension before the end of the month, then of all things our car registration documents become invalid, so we won’t be able to use the car for a few weeks. Hope that does not happen.

Christmas market in Ceske Budejovice
Christmas markets, České Budějovice

Sunday 19th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

This afternoon we had a church Christmas party, and we thought Benji might want to sing one of his songs... alas no, shyness set in in front of the microphone. But Varya and I sang an unrehearsed re-indition of one of our favourite Čechomor songs, Husičky (little geese). In Czech, of course :-)

České Budějovice has Christmas markets on at the moment, spread around the incomparable town square and several other historic streets. We wandered around this evening with Petr and Dana (our landlords) and soaked up the atmosphere (and a little mulled wine!).

Some snow finally arrived today! It doesn’t look like it will last, though.


Thursday 16th December 2004, Strakonice (Steve)

Work party at home of an OM family who live in Strakonice. We had a ride with the OM leader and his wife, and Benji was in sparking form. He kept them entertained with stories and songs that he insisted on singing himself, and they reciprocated with some Czech Christmas carols. What a delightful evening! It’s about -5°C outside, but alas, no snow.


Wednesday 15th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Applied for my visa extension today (vital for staying in the country). Nearly all paperwork is complete, just waiting for two small pieces of paperwork to come through and I’ll be clear for the next 12 months. Varya is so lucky that she’s an EU citizen — none of this paperwork and uncertainty for her!

At the “foreign police”, the people who deal with all the visa and immigration issues, none of them speak a word of English. What a joke! At least my Czech is now good enough that I can go there alone.


Monday 13th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

-4°C outside, but still no snow :-(

It’s really strange that it’s so cold, but because the air is so dry, there’s absolutely no frost on the grass, and no ice on the roads or pavements.


Sunday 12th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Had folks around for dinner tonight, including one friend (the Duck a l’orange one!) who we’re keen to spend more time with, looking at the Bible together, helping him in his faith. Since Friday night’s Bible study we’ve been even more sure that this is the right thing to be doing with him. It’s a sort of principle of “get alongside a few people who God lays on your heart, and make sure that by the time you leave the country, some people have made real progress in their Christian lives”. In Christian-speak it’s called “discipleship”.

We’re so glad we have Oskar (the new car). Today we found that the bus timetables have been dramatically reduced, especially on weekends, so getting to work or the supermarket on the buses (which we still do sometimes) means standing out in the sub-zero for longer. Brrrrrrrr.


Friday 10th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

For tonight’s final English Bible Meeting of the year we had a Christmas theme, and looked at both the New Testament account and the prophecies in the Old Testament that talk about Jesus’ coming. I have felt fired up for Bible study ever since the fantastic studies we did at Missionary Training School in Hungary a couple of weeks ago, so tonight I led the studies in a similar way: more interaction, a little less spoon-feeding, good meaty study. It seemed to come off well; people also loved the English Christmas Carols we had playing (spine-tingling Cathedral Choir sort of stuff).
Cechomor concert
Čechomor in concert

Thursday 9th December 2004, České Budějovice (Varya)

We were invited to a Cechomor concert tonight. We have recently started to listen to their music — it is traditional Moravian (part of Czech Rep), with a twist, and a healthy helping of rock rhythms! It was FANTASTIC!!

It was great to be at a concert, surrounded by Czechs, singing along (OK — only a few words here and there, but it’s a start. . . ) and losing ourselves in the live music. Steve was really impressed by the drummer; he played so fast that his arms were blurred. I really enjoyed the playing of the fiddler — he apparently has a five-string fiddle, and the lead singer rightly called him “kral” (king) — his playing was AMAZING!

We met several folks that we know, and it is so nice to be part of a city that is small enough to bump into friends when we go out. . .

I really believe that listening to Cechomor is helping my Czech language learning — because of its folk roots, I’m learning words like “sweetheart”; “maiden”; “grave” and “murder”. Perhaps not quite words that I’ll use every day, but it’s giving me a fuller sense of the language (well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!!)


Wednesday 8th December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

In bedtime prayers tonight, Benji and I prayed for “all the children in the world who don’t have enough to eat”.

  • Benji (3 and a half): Sometimes I don’t have enough to eat!
  • Daddy: That’s because even when mummy and daddy put food in front of you, you don’t eat it. But some children in the world don’t have any food on their plates to eat.
  • Benji: Then their mummies and daddies should cook some food and put it on the plates.
  • Daddy: But the mummies and daddies don’t have any food anywhere in the house -- so they can’t cook any. And they are all hungry.
  • Benji: Then they should go to Kaufland [local supermarket] and buy some.
  • Daddy: When we go to Kaufland, we have to pay money to get our groceries. Some mummies and daddies don’t have money - so they can’t get any food.
  • Benji: Then they should go to the bank and get some money.
  • Daddy: But some mummies and daddies don’t have any money in the bank...
  • Benji: so what do they do?

Somehow I had not been expecting to be teaching Benjamin about poverty at this age, but somehow he seems grown-up enough to understand the implications.

Svaty Mikulas
Svaty Mikulaš with angel and devil

Sunday 5th December 2004, České Budějovice (Varya)

The 5th of December is the day when, traditionally, St Nicholas (Svaty Mikulas) and some accompanying angels and devils visit children to find out if they’ve been good during the year. Our landlord’s daughters came with St Nicholas to see Benji — St Nicholas even practiced, so that he could speak to Benji in English. We had asked for the devils not to come, but they did, and Benji refused to look at them, because he was scared of them. However, he soon cheered up when given his gift — a wee train to use on the train set that he’ll get on Christmas day! :0)

[Steve: we were warned by lots of folks that the night often turns into a drunken revelry with rival groups of St Nick/Angels/Devils trying to kidnap other St Nick’s. We thought though that since we knew the ones coming to see us they’d probably be alright, ’specially if the devils didn’t come (oh well). And we thought we’d give the entire thing the benefit of the doubt and see it first hand. The costumes were absolutely fabulous, but as for next year... maybe not.]

Varya: We have a friend, Pavel, who loves to cook. Because he shares a flat, it’s easier for him to come round here and cook, than entertain us at his flat. He prepared Duck a l’orange tonight, and our colleague Doreen, was also here to enjoy the delights. After dinner, we listened to Norah Jones (chilled-out music. . . ) and played some games of chess. Aaaaaah :0)


Sat 4th December 2004, České Budějovice (Steve)

Went Christmas Shopping @ IGY (brand new western style shopping centre) — surprisingly few shoppers on a Saturday afternoon. Given that most other shops are closed at this time, it seems that it will take Czechs a while to get used to shopping on a Saturday afternoon... and many Czechs we know don’t like the flashy new shopping centre anyway! They say that it’s overpriced, and there’s “nothing for guys, anyway” (that is, there are no computer shops, and the guys we know are not into clothes shopping).
Elaine and Varya

Friday 3rd December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Tearful goodbyes to Elaine; a lovely farewell lunch attended by some of the more outlying OM workers who we don’t see so often; judging by the emotions of others who have been in OM for longer than we have, saying goodbye doesn’t get any easier with practise. That’s the only problem with having workers being with us for 1-2 years. At least we have some people lined up to join us in Jan/Feb, and others next September. Varya and I are glad that it won’t just be left to us to pick up the slack in the team.

English prizegiving party

Thursday 2nd December 2004, České Budějovice (Steve)

This morning is cold (-2°C), bright and still, and the extensive garden on the OM premises has to be cleared of branches and autumn leaves. 8 of us fill a huge rubbish skip to overflowing then settle down to a well earned pizza lunch. Elaine’s 2 years with us finishes tomorrow, and her parents are here to help her to move back to Northern Ireland [thanks guys for your help with the garden!].

Wednesday 1st December 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

The last teaching night of our English classes was on Monday night, so tonight was the prizegiving party in the OM cafe. It was a real hoot. We played some silly party games, including teaching some English tongue-twisters. Including a new twist on an old classic:

How much Czech wood could a Czech-chick woodchuck chuck, if a Czech-chick woodchuck could chuck Czech wood?

So, no more English teaching till February, and for me (Steve) maybe not even then. We’ll see how things turn out.

lots more interesting news and pictures - read our older diary pages: Sep 2003 - Jan 2004 May 2004 Aug 2004 Nov 2004
Feb - Mar 2004 Jun 2004 Sep 2004  
Apr 2004 Jul 2004 Oct 2004  

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