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Czech Diary, June 2004

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic
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Tuesday 29 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

After many baffling and frustrating attempts at baking, in the last few weeks, I have made a fascinating discovery which I feel I should share with you all. . .

“Vanilkove sodo”, although it has a beautiful photo of a cake on the packet is not, in fact, baking soda. The one you will want in order for cakes and muffins to rise beautifully is called “Jedla soda bikarbona”, and it has a rather less appealing photo of a glass of water with white powder being poured into it.

At least I can sleep tonight, safe in the knowledge that the recipes of Saint Alison Holst (patron saint of muffin makers the length and breadth of New Zealand) actually do work, even here in the CR. . . :0)

water balloon game
the water balloon game!

Friday 25 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

Tonight we hosted the International night in the OM villa. It is our final special night for a while (phew!), and fewer people attended than on other evenings. However the atmosphere was cosier, with various games outside, and Steve and I teaching the Canadian Barndance (another ceilidh dance).

Our aim tonight was to share with people the fact that God loves them and that Jesus gave his life for them, in order to bring them into a relationship with God. As we sought to share this message, we felt under some spiritual oppression, as during the evening we had various unexplainable technical problems; during Steve’s talk, Benjamin vomited (all over the carpet) twice; and our hard hitting drama/mime was only possible on the fifth attempt due to hitches in the sound system.

water balloon game

Thursday 24 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

As a Scot, I have felt a bit funny about supporting England, but let’s face it, I grew up there, and most of my close family still live there, so I think that I’ve got a good enough excuse! :0)

Tonight’s match was pretty closely fought, and the penalty shoot-out had many of us sitting on the edge of our seats, hoping for an English victory. Alas, it was not to be. . .

Oh well, I guess that means that I can now focus my attention on the Czech team, who let’s face it, are a better team anyway! (no offence to any of our readers :-)


Wednesday 23 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice town square (Steve)

Czech flag

Despite threatening thunderstorms, I made it in to the main town square for the late evening kickoff of the Czech/German football (soccer) match, in the Euro 2004 Championships. Czech/German games are always a big event (for various historical reasons...) and there were something up to 2000 mostly young people in the square watching on a big screen. The atmosphere was fantastic! And when the Czech Republic won and knocked Germany out of the championship... wow!

There was an interesting and marked contrast between this gathering of people, and the “celebrations” of joining the EU on the 1st of May... celebrations tonight made the EU ceremony seem rather lifeless.


Tuesday 22 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve and Varya)

Mum Brandon’s birthday — 60 today! Varya and I shouted Mum and Dad out to a great Mexican restaurant (hmmm... being in the Czech Republic, does that make the cuisine Czech-Mex?).

It was great to relax outside and enjoy such delights as chicken and spinach fajitas, spicy goulash, and cinnamon pastry swirls with fresh fruit and white chocolate sauce (well worth visiting CR for, to experience this particular delight! Yummmm :0)


Sunday 20 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

We’ve decided to cancel Czech lessons for next week, and try to recuperate. Mum and Dad Brandon had a great day today in Tabor, a town on the way up to Prague, which was a key town in the story of the Hussite rebellions after the death of Jan Hus in the 16th Century. Absolutely fascinating place, with a history of being non-conformist towards various rulers and invaders.

medieval singers in Cesky Krumlov
medieval singers in Cesky Krumlov

Saturday 19 June 2004, Příbram (Steve), Ceský Krumlov (Varya)

Against my better judgement I went off with the music team from church to Příbram, a place near Prague where English worship-leader and musician Sue Rinaldi led a day of training and worship. Though I could barely keep my eyes open it was great to spend time singing and worshiping in English and Czech, and not having to concentrate on playing at the same time. I seriously have to totally rest for a few days.

Meanwhile, I (Varya) went off to Cesky Krumlov to the annual Festival of the 5-Petalled Rose. It’s a medieval festival, with fantastic costumes, music, men in thigh-length leather boots, and other such delights :-) We arrived just in time to see the full procession from the castle (check out the costumes in our picture gallery!). Walking through the streets, it was wonderful to see people in costume mingling with folks in shorts and t-shirts. Around each street corner were wee groups of people singing, playing music, etc. Well worth checking out next year, if any of you fancy coming over for a wee break in 2005 :0)

brit night
British Night

Friday 18 June 2004, BRITISH NIGHT - Ceské Budějovice (Steve)

Somehow we have found the energy to get through the day. Varya and Elaine from OM did most of the organising, and the evening was a roaring success. Even our landlord and landlady turned up, wearing a see-you-jimmy hat, and mini-kilt! There were about 60 there altogether, and everyone had a great time. We even had everyone doing the Dashing While Sargeant (Scottish Ceilidh dance) in the back garden! I’m sure that’s a rare thing for the Czech Republic...

It’s amazing to see the relationships forming and maturing between OM and (in particular) the students from our English classes. “Word on the street” has it that OM is starting to get a reputation in the neigbourhood for being a place where good times are had... these international nights we have been putting on (American night, Korean night and British night) have been wonderful family occasions, where particularly the English students have brought along husbands, wives, children and friends, and enjoyed getting to know us and each other better. No, we haven’t been evangelistic at all in them; we’ll leave that till next week. The students know we are Christians, and we are not hiding it, but we also believe in having a good time, and really getting to know people well in a good environment. I think we are achieving that.

non-stop cricket
non-stop cricket

Thursday 17 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Alas, cricket bats and wickets are nowhere to be found in either sports shops or toy shops in South Bohemia. So I’ve made wickets out of a couple of wooden broom handles, and for bats I’ve found some plastic tennis racquets with foam balls. Perfect for non-stop cricket in a back garden. Now I am all set for doing the games tomorrow night, providing the weather holds out (forecast rain).

Our web site has stopped getting hits for people searching for “Czech Republic”, as MSN search and Yahoo search has demoted our site again for that term. Oh well, the hits were nice while they lasted. Funny how just those 2 engines seem to be linked... I wasn’t aware that they use each other’s technology... or do they?

Wednesday 16 June 2004 (Steve)

Mum and Dad got back from Austria this evening full of the joys of fantastic Alpine villages, and buzzing about seeing “Mozart country” in Salzburg.

Meanwhile, Varya and I are struggling with exhaustion. Czech lessons are going on apace, another one tonight, plus we’re involved in organising the British Night that OM is putting on on Friday night. Varya is working really hard, doing loads of baking: Scottish shortbread, scones, chocolate fudge, little iced cakes. We’re making displays of 1977 Silver Jubilee photos off the internet for one room, plus scenic photos from the 4 corners of the UK in another. There will be flags, talks, games (musical cities, and non-stop cricket played outside), and a traditional British pub quiz. So much to do. I can hardly think straight, and just need to sleep all the time.


Tuesday 15 June 2004 (Steve)

I noticed today that there have been lots of hits on our web site from people searching on MSN Search and Yahoo (not Google though) for “Czech Republic”. Our Czech Republic page was showing up on the first page of results on both those search engines! How this happened I don’t know (we’re usually hundreds of results further down), but I have updated that page with a few more facts and figures to keep the searchers happy.

Jan, John Varya and Benji
in the sun in C.B.

Monday 14 June 2004, Bad Gastein, Austria (Jan Brandon)

Excerpt from Mum Brandon’s diary: (Steve and Va are green with envy...)

Even Stephen managed to get up to see us off on the 5.35 am train to Austria.
Heading South we continued 1.5 hours through the Czech Rep. travelling in a small compartment all to ourselves. It was fun. Again, we passed through much forest and farm land and some quaint tiny summer A framed cottages with the most meticulous veg and flower gardens with all the plants in tiny, straight rows.

Of course we were excited to cross into Austria and having our passports stamped. We changed trains several times during our travels today. Each train was so comfortable, quiet and very smooth and relaxing although at times the scenery was so breathtaking, that John and I were darting from one side of the train to the other, not wanting to miss anything. In Austria, the trains really sped along (electric driven).

The journey from Salzburg to Bad Gastein where we are now staying was 100km of picture postcard scenery. We had no idea that the Alps would be so high and magnificent on both sides of us as we travelled up the mountain pass stopping 9 times at mostly small villages.

Most of the homes are A framed, built using a lot of wood left in its natural colours. Everywhere there were pots of brightly coloured geraniums and petunias on the window ledges and at doorways. The highest of the peaks are at least 3000m and some still snowcapped.

The village we are in is high up the valley and we look out onto the Alps through both windows of our corner room 3 storys up in a recently rennovated youth hotel. Our accomodation is motel standard but without cooking facilities. After a good rest (we arrived about 1pm) we went for a magnificent walk further up the valley alongside a mountain stream. The valley was carpeted in wildflower. Waterfalls were tumbling down the mountains and again picturesque dwellings dotted the panorama. Truly, a sight to behold!

Tomorrow we will continue with more of the same!!


Saturday 12 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Spent much of the evening helping to arrange a trip for Mum and Dad from here to Austria, to start to use their Eurail pass. Finally found a cool youth hostel in Bad Gastein, an Austrian alpine village 7.5 hrs from here by train. Looks awesome, but the train leaves at 5:30AM on Monday... glad we are so close to Austria.

prayer evening

Friday 11 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Hooray! It was a great success! Over 40 people turned up to the prayer evening, and Mum and Dad’s talk went down really well. People were very interested in their travelogue and call to prayer, but also in the whole concept of hosting travellers (which they do a lot of) in New Zealand (where they are from) as a mission in itself.

Over the last week as we have been preparing for tonight, the idea has occurred to us that the Czech Republic would also be ideal for hosting travellers. It would seem to have all the right ingredients: lots of canoeing, walking, sports and other outdoor activities; very peaceful; Christians who are willing to open their homes, and considerably closer to the Middle East and Europe than New Zealand! Mum and Dad had several great discussions with different people who caught the vision for this sort of evangelism. We’ll see how it develops...

Thursday 10 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Tomorrow night Mum and Dad Brandon and I are putting on a prayer meeting at OM, for a country they have been visiting recently (no surprise to those who know them!). Invitations have been made to all the churches in South Bohemia, so we don’t know how many will turn up! It’s been a hive of activity here in the flat, with photos being scanned, Czech scriptures typed out for presentation, and all the talks prepared. We’re all feeling the strain, but it’s quite thrilling to be working together on this. Working for OM is great — doing stuff like this is part of our day job!


Wednesday 9 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Mum and Dad Brandon went off to Hluboka nad Vltavou by themselves today - it’s a small town with an amazing fairytale castle, just a short way from Ceské Budějovice. Temperature was close to 30°C, and they came home frazzled! They’re coping really well with the public transport though, despite just knowing about 4 words of Czech!

transit of venus
transit of venus across the face of the sun (though you can’t see Venus on this image!)

Tuesday 8 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice Observatory (Steve)

This morning, from about 7AM until 1PM, the planet Venus passed in front of the sun, something that only happens twice in about 160 years. In Ceske Budejovice we had bright, hot sunshine and a clear sky, so the viewing conditions were perfect. With my Mum and Dad we went off to the observatory to see this amazing event through some good equipment (my 300mm camera lense did allow us to see it from home, but Venus was a tiny dot on the sun and hard to see).

In some ways it’s not surprising that for some people, looking up into the heavens into a strange and huge universe, it’s hard to imagine why or how a God might exist, and how or why that God might have created such a universe. As strange as the universe is though, “The Heavens declare the Glory of the Lord”, and watching the passage of a planet millions of kilometres away across the face of our sun reminded me of the wonderful order of the universe. Although we are tiny in comparison to these events, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. The wonder of the universe is even more wonderful when you know the creator!

3 today!
Three today! Benjamin with his "ant" cake

Sunday 6 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Benjamin)

Grandma and Grandpa B came to the Czech Republic for my birthday. I’m three now. Now I can go to the playroom at Globus cos I’m three.

Mummy made me a cake. My favourite video is the ant video [A Bug’s Life] so Mummy made me an ant cake. I blowed out three candles on my cake, and I ate the zizala [worms] and the medved [bears] that Mummy put around my ant cake. I’m a big boy now and one day I will be a big adult like my Daddy. I love eating birthday cake, and especially yoghurt. It goes into my mouth, and down my throat, and down into my tummy, and down into my feet! That’s why they are so big.

I got lots of presents and cards. I liked cutting the cards with the scissors that Gran Mac sent me. Mummy gave me some different things to cut. I think that Daddy really wants the model plane that I got. Dekuji moc for all the cards and presents.

It was my pal Sam’s birthday today too and I wanted to say happy birthday to him, but he was away on holiday.

Korean evening
Korean night

Friday 4 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Today, for the first time since arriving in the Czech Republic, I drove a vehicle. Needing to pick up my Mum and Dad from the bus station, with some 60kg of luggage, it made sense to borrow the OM van. Despite some apprehension (driving on the opposite side of the road to in the UK) it was absolutely fine. I had better not do this too often, or I’ll start to want to buy a car...

Tonight was OM’s “Korean Night”, one of our series of cultural events. What a fantastic evening! There must have been over 70 people there including lots of kids. Highlight of the evening for many was the “dressing up” part, where girls and women could dress up in traditional Korean outfits, and I photographed them. Another fun bit was one of the Korean women on the team teaching how to write your own name in Korean script. People really got into it — Chung Nam is a great teacher. And the Korean games outside... huge fun! It was great to see Mum and Dad Brandon enjoying getting to know some of the rest of the team, and getting a real taste of life and ministry here.

Czech Factoids!

Ever wondered what it’s really like to live here? See our new page Living in the Czech Republic.

Wednesday 2 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (both of us)

Completely exhausted by the last 2 days in Prague, we’ve spent most of the day in bed.

Tuesday 1 June 2004, Ceske Budejovice (both of us)

Esconsed Mum and Dad Brandon in a friend-of-a-friend’s house in Prague for a few days and made our way home on a train. Completely exhausted!

at the river
at the river

Monday 31 May 2004, Prague (Stephen)

Mum and Dad Brandon arrived today on the final part of their world trip! We took an early bus to Prague (about 118 crowns each) and picked them up at the airport. Tonight we’re staying at a youth hostel called Sir Toby’s which is lovely, and cheap too. Lots of Christians seem to use it (I think owners are Christians, and some staff too).

It’s awesome to see Mum and Dad again — haven’t seen them since last August in New Zealand. They’re bowled over, particularly, by the public transport here. One ticket for about $NZ12.50 gets them on and off buses, trams and metro (subway) for 7 days. Even gets you to and from the airport!

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

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