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Czech Diary, May 2004

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic
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Monday 24 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (both of us)

It’s not the first time we have made the mistake of assuming that being invited around for the evening means being invited for dinner. Czechs have their main meal in the middle of the day. We know that. But we were invited around to our landlord and land-lady’s place for 6PM and assumed wrongly. Nevertheless, cakes and nibbles were served, and we all managed to survive. What a fantastic evening though! They are wonderful people and we had a great laugh (not about the dinner thing, though, because we didn’t let on...). They are really keen to come to our OM "British Night" in a couple of weeks time. We love getting to know Czechs!

at the river
at the river

Saturday 22 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Stephen)

This afternoon I took Benjamin out of the house for a few hours as Varya is doing secret preparations for my upcoming birthday! After over an hour of throwing sticks and stones in the river we made our way back home via the football ground, and found that a game was just beginning. We sat down next to a man and started to chat about the game, the team and the football ground. He was really friendly and bought me a beer :-) It’s amazing to be able to (sort of) communicate with people in Czech, and to find them so friendly and welcoming. I really hope I meet this man again. Trivia: being right next to the river, the SK Slavia ground was totally flooded (under 2 metres of water) in the 2002 floods. It cost 1,300,000 Crowns to repair (£UK26,000) which might not sound a lot, but it’s a small club and ground, with no stadium seating, and 1,300,000 Kc is a small fortune here.

Benjamin’s potty training continues today. What a messy business!

Varya enjoyed teaching the fine art of cooking lasagne to a Korean colleague who we had around for dinner tonight. We’re really enjoying having people around, and realise that hospitality is certainly a ministry in its own right.

We still know more Czech than Benjamin!


Friday 21 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Stephen)

The first of a series of international nights at OM Czech was held tonight - American night. It involved a BBQ with kebabs - barbies are very common for Czechs too, but generally involve a hole in the ground with a log fire in it, over which you cook very fat, fatty sausages (klobasa or bursht [buršt]) spiked on sticks. So a BBQ on a stand is a novelty. And the amount of work that it had taken for someone to prepare all 150 kebabs suprised a lot of people.

There were about 50 people there, which surprised some of us! Coming up over the next couple of months are a Korean night, a British night, and an International night, which will be the only one to be more overtly evangelistic. The rest are more fun times to develop relationships and give back to the community.

at the fountain in the square in Ceske Budejovice

Thursday 20 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

A gloriously sunny day today - a small foretaste of how hot the summer will be- yikes! Benji helped me to plant some flowers in the balcony window boxes, and then we set off in search of gifts for Steve’s birthday, on Sunday, and Sam Gurling’s third birthday, on 6th June (a date shared with Benjamin :0).

We visited the Britske Centrum (British Council - a fantastic lending library for English teaching resources, literature, etc), and spoke with the lady who serves at the desk. She is ever cheerful, and really encouraging to practice Czech with. It’s been fantastic today to communicate in Czech in all but one of the conversations with various shop keepers, and with a helpful police man (no, I was not under arrest at the time!!!)

In the town square, we passed a group of German tourists, and one lady and I looked at each other and smiled and nodded. I feel so privileged to no longer be a tourist but a resident of this fantastic town :0)

Outside our block of flats is a sandpit. As we passed today, Benji spotted a wee boy that he had made friends with, last week. The father and I spoke to each other, in Czech, and it turns out that they live in the same block as us. Please pray that as we continue to meet throughout the summer, that Steve, Benji and I would be able to develop a friendship with this wee boy and his parents.

Wednesday 19 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Called Bratislava again today to see if my visa is ready, but it’s not. Nice to know I don’t have to take a night train tonight though...

Tuesday 18 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Benjamin’s hair is like mine - grows like crazy. Honed my haircutting skills on him again, with good results. Benji is growing up so fast, that we can hardly believe the changes in him. His language is so sophisticated and polite, and he prays by himself, both before bed and before food. He has an amazing imagination, and his current favourite activity (apart from watching videos) is playing a shopkeeper in a little “shop” in his room. “Do you want to pay?” is his constant request to mummy and daddy, meaning that he wants to flog off some more of his toys for pretend money, pieces of lego.


Monday 17 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Tonight was the leaving party for ECC, “English Classes for Czechs”, the English classes that are held here at OM-Cz. Sungmo and I had printed up some really nice certificates for all the students, and it was all hands on deck to prepare the Villa for the party. In the end almost all 50 students were there, with assorted partners and children, and the place was abuzz. What an awesome bunch of people, from young to old. Varya and I are really looking forward to teaching the beginners classes next term.

Sunday 16 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Sometimes at church there’s English translation, but not always. We don’t usually mind (it’s great listening practise), but this morning was hard hard hard. Barely understood a word in the whole service, and because I am playing keyboards in the band, I can’t see the overhead projector for the words of the songs. I am learning the music well enough, but without the words to the songs it feels like I’m not even worshipping :-(

The church is really small and sometimes, like today, we only have a handful of adults (about 12 today). It’s at the same time discouraging (for obvious reasons) and encouraging, because I know that there are a number of other people out there who are touched by church even when they are not there.

Tuesday-Friday 11-14 May 2004, Brussels (Steve)

All the computing stuff is starting to return to my mind and memory after months away from it. I was glad to be able to properly contribute to the discussions with all OM’s other IT area admins from around the world, even though I am subbing for someone else. It’s amazing how interesting esoteric topics like choice of e-mail client, e-mail security, road-working, end-of-life for office software, and procurement of computer parts in difficult countries can be.

I am a bit afraid that as the computing stuff returns to me, my Czech language will leak out the other side of my brain. It’s strange to be back in a room full of English speakers after months off. In true IT admin tradition though, there’s only one woman and a dozen men here.

Varya’s not all that well this week, but phone calls home suggest that Benji is being a darling and happily watching videos when mummy says that she can’t get out of bed. It’s not easy to be away when I know that all’s not well on the home front.

Monday 10 May 2004, Vienna, Brussels (Steve)

Although approximately equidistant from Prague to the north, and Vienna to the south-east, it’s a lot quicker and cheaper to get to Prague from Ceske Budejovice than it is to get to Vienna. The first leg of my trip to Brussels started with a 4.5 hour train journey (with 3 changes) to Vienna, to fly from there to Brussels. A day return trip from CB to Prague costs 250 crowns return, and takes 2.5 hours each way. Single direction to Vienna cost over 100 crowns (£UK20).

Finally got into Brussels at 10PM. Only surprising thing about the journey was that Vienna airport actually has a sex shop in the terminal! Uggh.

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Saturday 8 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Today, Benjamin’s potty training begain in earnest. With all the disruptions to our lives in recent months it never seemed the right time to do it. Now is the right time. He’s managing to do the occasional right thing in the right receptacle, which is great, and seems to be happy to sit for longish periods on the potty. Additionally, Skolka won’t let him in if he’s still in nappies, so that’s an additional incentive. We’re confident he’ll be ok by September!

Varya met another of our neighbours today, from the floor above us. Spoke great English, and they have invited us up to see them some time. Fantastic! Please pray that we’ll be able to make friends with these and the rest of the people in our building. These guys are a wonderful chance to make good friends and develop relationships. They are also our immediate mission field. Please remember them and us in your prayers.

Tuesday 4 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Operation Mobilisation’s Area IT Administrator for Germany, Czech, Austria, Greece, the Balkans, Hungary etc is based with us in the Czech office. There’s a meeting of all of OM’s AITA’s in Belgium next week, and Michal can’t make it. He has asked me to go on his behalf. Frantically reading up on all of OM’s IT issues I agree, so I am off to Vienna next Monday to catch a flight to Brussels for the week. Sad to leave Varya and Benjamin, though they should be fine.

bubbles are bigger when daddy runs the bath.

Monday 3 May 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

We realised today that we had not booked Benji into školka (kindergarten from age 3) for the term starting in September. This should have been done a couple of weeks ago, and applications have to go through a central education agency in C.B. rather than direct to the skolka. Hmmm. So with Pavel in tow we visited the Skolka opposite Benji’s Jesle, but they were full and definitely not accepting applications. They told us of another one though so we traipsed off there to see it.

What an awesome kindergarten! I have never seen anything like it! Modern, clean, kids well behaved, and as we were visiting just after lunch, the kids were all settling down for an afternoon nap on little stretchers on the floor! They were happy to provisionally accept Benjamin provided we convince the Ed people, so we started filling out forms and made our way to another place in town where we would have to convince someone to accept our late application.

Miraculously, since the Skolka had a place open, the Education people were happy to bypass the rules and place Benjamin. Prayers answered! All we have to do know is get a doctor to give Benji a checkup, put his stamp on the form, then we’re in. Wow!

bubblesd.o.g. in concert

Saturday 1 May 2004, České Budějovice (Varya)

Being the 1st of May, there was no football in the football ground behind us today (official celebrations and all that). Weather chilly with thunderstorms. Varya went into the town square this afternoon to where lots of bands were playing as part of "Majáles", a student festival. There was a local Christian band playing, D.O.G., who were apparently very good.

The Czech Republic joins the EU

Fireworks in Ceske Budejovice town square

celebrations in Ceske Budejovice

Friday 30 April 2004, České Budějovice

Tomorrow, the 1st of May 2004, the Czech Republic and nine other nations join the European Family of the EU. Tonight, all around Europe, and in cities all around the Czech Republic including here in Ceske Budejovice, there were official celebrations, parties, music and fireworks.

But not everyone was celebrating. Although the Czech referendum on joining had been won with an emphatic YES vote, large sectors of the population were, and still are, unhappy with the change. Why was this? And would the planned celebrations turn out to be a big flop, or a resounding success?

After going to a team social earlier in the evening, we made our way to the Ceske Budejovice town square, passing growing crowds of people on the way. Spirits were high, and other events were in full swing, including outdoor theatre and markets. In the main square, crowds were thronging around the as yet unlit fountain, and four towers housing lighting, sound and huge display screens.

At 10:30PM the party began, with fantastic lighting playing colour and shadows across the medieval facades of the buildings around the square. Dancers swept along a high walkway between one of the towers and a central stage. Singers were spotlit atop the towers, and sang representative music from many of the EU member states. There were even some kilted Scottish/Irish dancers, which got Varya and I dancing a jig in the street!

The grand finale, of course, was a spectacular fireworks display (see left). To our outside-observers’ eyes, the celebration was a great success, and well attended. The square was thronged with people genuinely enjoying themselves. The majority were young to middle aged, but the lack of older people was probably as much to do with the lateness of the show as to any dissatisfaction with the EU or political change.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that many Czechs are deeply sceptical (with good reason) about whether the EU will deliver the promised prosperity, and whether being partly controlled by yet another outside power (remember the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Germans and the Russians?) is really in their interests.

A Czech friend who was also present said: "People weren’t really celebrating. They were just there to see what was going on. You should have heard how people were analysing each of the events, and complaining that it was all taking too long..."

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

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