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Czech Diary, July 2004

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic
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Sunday 1st August 2004, CB (Varya)

Wow - the first of August already! This year is whizzing by at a rate of knots!

Really wet morning (with thunderstorms) followed by glorious sunshine :0) One of the men who attended English camp came to our church for the first time today. He then came over this afternoon to give us some veggies from his garden, including the most massive courgette (zuccini) that I had ever seen. Steve assures me though, that he had regularly seen veggies growing to that size (and larger) in New Zealand! Looking forward to a delicious dinner tonight and tomorrow. . .

We’re beginning to start focussing our attentions on returning to the UK for my brother’s wedding, on Aug. 13th (that’s right - Fri. 13th - they’re not superstitious!). It will be so great to catch up with family and friends again :0)

at the river

Saturday 31 July 2004, České Budějovice (Steve)

Just to end the month on a happier note, today is the most gorgeous summer’s day. The Malše river, which we see from our back window, has probably 100 people in view, sunbathing or swimming. We went down with Benji and had a glorious time paddling. Ahh, all is well with the world.

Friday 30 July 2004, České Budějovice (Steve)

Train last night got in at midnight, after the buses had stopped, so after 27 hours on the move I then had to walk home the last 2 km :-(

Finally managed to drag myself down to the police station this afternoon to register myself but find it is closed on Friday afternoons. If I don’t get signed up on Monday then there are dire consequences. And the queues are so long there that I could be waiting for many hours. I pray not.

The other bad news for the day is that we are being chased for payment from the company in Prague that got our household effects thru customs and made the final delivery. I thought that I had paid the delivery man (cash on delivery) the 5500 crowns (£UK110), but the company has no record of it, and I can’t find a receipt. Looks like we were diddled out of the money by an unscrupulous truck driver, with no recourse. But put yourselves in our shoes: we help to unload 80 boxes from a truck, then have a bunch of papers stuck in front of us that we have to sign. Driver speaks no English. We hand over money and sign something we don’t understand. Hearing nothing more from the company for months we have no reason to assume that we haven’t paid...

Now that there are problems, we have no idea of what legal recourse we might or might not have, and the language barrier is huge. I don't even know how to say “But I paid the driver in cash and signed something — please check your records.”!!! This isn't the UK. Things work differently here.

Bratislava Museum
Bratislava Museum

Thursday 29 July 2004, Bratislava (Steve)

Into Bratislava to pick up my work visa for the Czech Republic. Appointment at the consulate at 11AM, but my train has arrived at 6AM so I have 5 hours to kill. Wander around Bratislava old town rather slowly due to lack of sleep last night. The old town is gorgeous, with myriad small squares and winding streets, and I take it all in as it wakes.

11AM rolls around and I pray for a quick turn-around on the visa, as I want to catch the 12:48 train back to Prague and Ceske Budejovice. Naturally, it is not to be. “Come back to pick up your visa at 2PM” is the unwelcome advice. OK, so the next train is at 15:50 and will get me home at midnight. Yeech.

Climbing aboard the 15:50 to Prague, though, visa in hand, I count my blessings. The couple in front of me (with their 6-month old baby) in the visa office, attempting to submit their application, have found that the criminal record certificate from the Czech police which they have submitted has missed out the husband’s middle name. So it’s invalid, and everything will be delayed for more weeks.

The process for me, too, is not quite over. I have to register with the police in Ceske Budejovice within 3 working days, or my entire visa is invalidated and I have to apply for the whole thing again from scratch. I’m not going to let that happen.

Bratislava sculpture
Bratislava, city of art & sculpture

Wednesday 28 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice/Prague (Steve)

Off on the 9:27PM train to Prague. Yeech. Train slightly delayed and just about missed the connection at 00:21AM to Bratislava. The only compartment with space in it, in the slightly shabby Czech Rail train had 3 other men, so there was no space to lie down. Most unfortunately for 3 of us in the compartment, the other gentleman was, in the words of EH Milne, “a bear of little brain”, who kept the lights on all night, read a loud crinkly newspaper, and kept a screechy transistor radio half tuned to whatever local radio station we passed as we rattled our way through the night. What price a pair of earphones?! Did not sleep.

Tuesday 27 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

News Flash: My visa to work in the Czech Republic has finally been completed and is ready to pick up from Bratislavia (Slovakia)!!! I'll head off to Slovakia tomorrow night (another night train...) and finally I'll be able to start working in the Czech Republic :-) Hallelujah!


Sunday 25 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

This morning the artists’ 2 week mission came to an end, and they headed off back to Austria then on to the USA. Varya and I had breakfast with them before they left, as we had missed the last week of their tremendously exciting, and groundbreaking mission.

This particular mission had been a proof-of-concept exercise. The fact is, there are many Christian artists who feel that there is little space made for them in the Church in general; there is quite a lot of misunderstanding of them, and there are very few opportunities for artists in traditional missions organisations. For this mission, OM was willing to find a field (Czech Republic) willing to host them, and set aside time and resources to allow them to reach out to the people of this nation using their God-given talents.

And what a success it has turned out to be! Not only did the team paint a most fantastic mural at a disabled children’s home, but they also ran free art classes and an evening drop-in cafe, where they were able to talk to large numbers of people over the 2 weeks. Much interest was generated... even the newspaper ran a story and picture of the group.

We’re hoping and planning that after this mission similar ones might take place here and in other countries. The concept seems to fit very well within OM’s style of short term (or perhaps longer?) mission, and we are fortunate here in Czech that there are good facilities and personnel for follow-up.

Challenge to other churches, Christian groups and missions organisations: Are you making the most of the talents of all your members? Including artists?


Saturday 24 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Home at last. We left the English Camp this afternoon exhausted, elated and deflated, all at the same time. Exhausted — well how can you not be? Elated — we’ve made a number of new friends, and we’re not going to have to go back to Scotland and leave them all behind. We’re both feeling great, having had something to really get our teeth into for a week. Deflated — all good things must come to an end, and already the camp is starting to feel like a distant memory, in a different time and place.

For more on the English Camp, please read the report.


Thursday 15 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Incredible... the folks at the disabled kids’ home are so amazed with what our guys are doing that tomorrow morning the newspapers have been invited around to do a story on it. Wowee!!! I saw a video clip of the kids at the home today... and they’re really very disabled. It’s going to be awesome for them to be able to look at a colourful mural instead of bare walls, for hours a day.

Meanwhile, Varya and I are making final preparations for the English camp starting tomorrow. It’s about 45 minutes drive from here, and we’re borrowing a vehicle to get there (hooray! driving!). There’s been a lot to prepare. Varya is going to be doing a lot of English teaching, and I am going to be giving a class on film making (we’ll write a script, then make a movie version of “the prodigal son”).

So, no more updates for the next 10 days at least (sorry folks). If you’re the praying type, though, please lift us up in prayer as we’re still both under strain and not feeling too great. Thanks!


Wednesday 14 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Varya has been doing much of the cooking for the artists this week, so we’ve been playing tag in and out to the OM base, one doing cleaning in the mornings, one going to the art classes or doing cooking, and then the other going the the evening cafe... busy busy. But not as busy as the artists. Preparations for the mural at the kids’ home seem to be going well.

artists at work
Courtney at work...

Tuesday 13 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

The Artists’ mission has a tough schedule — in the mornings they are painting a huge mural in a home for disabled children; in the afternoons they are doing art classes (it’s summer holidays at the moment), and in the evenings there’s a drop-in cafe.

Tonight was the first night that the OM cafe was open for business. It was only a week ago that all the beautiful cane furniture arrived (months late), and now the walls are covered in art too. We had a good bunch of people through, including some new faces, and highlight of the evening was a sort of drawing competition where Courtney and Judica drew on one sketchboard, and two volunteers attempted to copy their work on the other. There are certainly some skilled artists around here!

The Well

John's work

Sunday 11 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

If “sketching in church” Abby's palm frondsbrings to mind images of bored parishoners doodling in the back of a prayer book, then you might have been shocked at what went on in our church this morning!

The artists who are doing a mission here in Ceske Budejovice over the next 2 weeks were invited to participate in the worship service. Not by just talking about what they’re doing, but to express their worship to God through drawing, while the rest of us were singing! This was a first for our church, certainly, and also for the artists!

The drawings that they did were awesome! Somehow, the singing and the drawing just worked together, and as we raised our praises to God, the scratch scratch of pastels reminded me of all the different ways that we can worship God. When the music stopped, the drawing continued, and I was reminded again that all over the world, there’s a chain of praise and worship of God that goes on and on...


Malsi river, Ceske Budejovice
ok, so there are some consolations...

Wednesday 7 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

I was reminded last night that newborn babies are so tired all the time because they are completely bombarded by new stimuli — every word, sound, sight and smell that they experience has to be processed. It’s a lot like that for us, still. We’ve concluded that we’re going through a second wave of culture shock, and it’s about as tough as the first one. Physically, neurologically, emotionally and I dare say spiritually, we are under constant strain.

We fantasise about being back in Glasgow — about being able to turn on the TV at 7PM and hear John Snow’s dulcet tones reporting on the news of the day. About being able to actually remember (without resorting to pen and paper) every appointment for the week. About being able to chatter away to people in English. About being able to drive to go and get the shopping. About being able to go off to work in the morning, do a decent day’s work (ie design a database or two [me], or talk someone through their suicidal feelings [Va]), then come back in the evening, have dinner, watch TV and go to sleep in a comfy bed.

That’s not to say that it’s all bad. There’s a great sense of achievement in having a good Czech lesson (as we did tonight), and we just love the town and flat we live in. It’s just all pretty intense, and when we’re feeling under the weather as we are (colds, tiredness) even the good things don’t completely compensate for the hard things. We would appreciate your prayers.


Monday 5 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Benji)

Today is my great gran Petrie’s 90th birthday - Mummy tells me that she is 87 years older than me. That is a very big number.

Mummy and Daddy and I went to the park today. We played with my world football. I am very good at kicking it, and Daddy was teaching me to head the ball today. That’s a bit hard. I was Baroš, Daddy was Koller, and Mummy was Nedvěd. We also picked some cherries from a tree. I like eating cherries, but only the dark red ones.

I watched The Lion King video today - the hyenas in it are very naughty. I like Simba best. He is a good lion. Scar is a baddie.

Tabor skyline
Tabor old town skyline

Tabor town hall
part of Tabor town square

Tabor wedding
wedding in the square

Sunday 4 July 2004, Tábor, South Bohemia (Stephen)

Our accomodation last night, Pension Alfa, was pretty good... but particularly memorable for 2 things: (i) the thickness of the pillows (around 2cm if we were lucky...) and (ii) the situation: about 2 minutes from the main square, in a building over 400 years old. Fantastic.

After taking Benji down to the square again for more football, we climbed the tower above the church for a spectacular view of the town and countryside, then headed for the historic castle, Hussite exhibition and “round tower”.

Verdict on Tabor: extremely relaxed, historic town with a fascinating story to tell. Most tourists there were Czechs, making it a nice change from Prague or Cesky Krumlov. Well worth a visit — and on the main train line between Prague and Ceske Budejovice.

Saturday 3 July 2004, Tabor, South Bohemia (Stephen)

A combination of potty training plus nappy rash does not make for good travelling with an infant, but the 1 hour bus journey to Tábor passed without that sort of incident :-) We're so impressed with public transport here: the journey only cost 55 crowns each (£UK1.10).

Tábor is an absolutely fascinating place, with a history of total non-conformity. It became a stronghold of the Hussite movement after the death at the stake of their founder, Jan Hus [John Huss] in 1415. Though the date puts it before the main Reformation, Hus was trying to reform terrible corruption in the Catholic church, and the transformation of the clergy into powerful landowners and political entities. He believed that the church should be poor, and also that the common man should have access to the communion cup. The cup then became the major symbol of the Hussite movement, and is still used today by the Hussite church (though the Hussite church is an early 19th Century development, and does not descend directly from Hus).

The Hussite movement were powerful fighters, and the walled old town of Tábor became at times a battleground, not inclined to bow down to any ruler, particularly not if associated with the Catholic stronghold of Ceske Budejovice [where we live], some 88km to the south. They were of course defeated from time to time though!

The old town has a most gorgeous town square, and Benjamin could have played football in it all day long. In fact he did nearly play in at all day long, pausing only briefly for a tourist trip through a series of tunnels that criss-cross under the square, and an afternoon sleep in our pension.


Friday 2 July 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Stephen)

Next Monday and Tuesday are public holidays, so we’ve been wondering what to do with them. Finally decided to follow in my Mum and Dad’s footsteps and visit the Bohemian town of Tábor for 2 days, leaving tomorrow morning. Weather is nice and warm so should be fun and picturesque. Found a suitable place to stay tomorrow night on the web.

Loads more interesting news with pictures - read our older diary pages: Sep 2003 - Jan 2004
Feb - Mar 2004
Apr 2004
May 2004
June 2004

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