czech republic missionaries

Czech Diary, October 2005

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic re-entry to the UK
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Re-entry +4: Monday 24th October 2005, Derby, England (Steve)

at the park

Oh that’s right…

  • IN THE UK you don’t drive into town on a Saturday (take the bus instead)… there are too many people!
  • IN THE UK shops are actually open past 11:30 on a Saturday morning!
  • IN THE UK when you ask for tea, people assume that it’s “normal” (not fruit or specialty), and you get milk and/or sugar.
  • IN THE UK there are no ads on BBC TV! None at all!
  • IN THE UK when we read billboards and advertisements, we can actually understand them: they’re in English!
  • IN THE UK we can initiate conversations without having to think them all out first, and being afraid of making grammatical mistakes!
  • IN THE UK cars drive on the left. It takes a bit of getting used to again.
  • IN THE UK you can get fish’n’chips! In HUGE quantities! Like we couldn’t even finish our portions the other night (first fish’n’chips we’ve had in 2 years).
  • IN THE UK Benjamin can actually watch children’s TV instead of resorting to videos and DVDs (it’s taking a bit for him to get used to this).
  • IN THE UK you can go into a bookshop and look at ANY book in ANY section. It’s like coming out of the “war years”, rationing ending, and experiencing the wonderful joy of re-discovery.
  • IN THE UK there’s massive competition in the telecoms sector; you can call people in other countries for next to nothing (eg telediscount).
  • FROM THE UK you can get cheap airline tickets to basically anywhere in Europe. Awesome.
  • IN THE UK people don’t (generally) buy horrible cheap toilet paper. Aaaaaahhhh.
  • IN THE UK power plugs and sockets are enormous!
  • IN THE UK… oh yes, rain.

Re-entry +2: Saturday 22nd October 2005, Derby, England (Varya)


Trip to nearby Nottingham

Normally we would take the train from Longeaton, as this would seem to be the most painless solution, not requiring us to negotiate the busy Nottingham traffic. However, as we were walking up to the platform, our train was pulling out so we decided to resort to plan B: park-n-ride (ie park the car on the outskirts of the city, and take a bus into town). HOWEVER. The signposting for the park-n-ride was rather confusing, and it took us ages to find the place. When we finally got onto the bus it was jam packed with Christmas shoppers, and there were many more pushchairs squished onto the bus than the bus designers has designd for. It was all a buit of a nightmare, but, at least we saw the wonderful city of Nottingham. Eventually.

We are able to enjoy wandering, talking, checking out the Per Una section of Marks & Spencers! Benjamin was kept amused and delighted by a helium balloon that his gran bought for him.

Despite the difficulties of the day, it was fantastic to be in a city I have known since childhood, and to be able to understand the conversations going on around me in the street, but it was somewhat weird when going into shops, I had to stop myself saying dobry den as a greeting as I would in CZ, and I kept saying “pojd’ sem” (come here) to Benji. It will take some time to get used to just speaking in one language again.


Re-entry +1: Friday 21st October 2005, Derby, England (Steve)

Our Pick: Re-entry, by Peter Jordan. Highly recommended for returning missionaries, and those looking after them

I wake early this morning, finding myself still fully clothed… after-effects of days of pressure, planning, packing, moving internationally, goodbyes, looking after son and pregnant wife, final dealings with Czech bureaucracy, and plain old-fashioned travel tiredness.

My mind, unused to staying still, loops through ingrained thought patterns. Did I remember… did I do… did I return… did I follow up… [answer: YES to most]. Each thought is thought in duplicate, English and faltering Czech. How long before I can approach doing something without my mind practising it in Czech first?

Memories of yesterday are trickling back. The reporter from the local newspaper who stops me (at random) in Ceske Budejovice town square for a brief interview on my Christmas shopping habits… surprising myself at how I can conduct the interview in Czech, and feeling really good about myself, on my last day here (there?). How fast the pilot on the flight to England babbles his English — doesn’t he know half the planeload are not native English speakers? Even I can’t keep up with him! How glad that the couple sitting behind us are Czechs. Benji annoying the man seated in front by kicking the back of his seat. Benji having the longest day of his life with no sleep in the middle. Trying to get into the wrong side of the car after we arrived. Varya coping amazingly well, though heavily pregnant and often feeling uncomfortable, sore and/or nauseous. Being bombarded by English — even the liquid soap dispenser screams at me Refreshing Lime Cleansing Tea-Tree Invigorating Mint Feel GOOD Fruits. Hey, it’s probably the same in Czech, but it hits you in face more when you don’t have to translate it first!

Re-entry +0: Thursday 20th October 2005, Ceske Budejovice/Prague/Derby (Steve)

Travelling to Prague? Puzzled about how to get from the airport to the city or train station?
Getting from Prague airport to train station

Hi everyone — we’re off! Just about to be driven to Prague for a late flight to England. We’ll be with Varya’s Mum for a couple of weeks. Will be in Glasgow on the 3rd of November.

Thanks for all your prayers. The move has gone really well. Sold the car yesterday, to our landlord and his wife. AAA Auto ended up offering only 100,000 crowns for the car, instead of 170,000! So they didn’t get it. But praise the Lord, our landlords know a good car when they see one.

Our email address remains the same, but we don’t have a phone number in Paisley (where our new flat is) yet, naturally.

We’re feeling pretty good, and not too emotional. There have been lots of goodbyes, and we’ve had a great sending off.

Thank you to all those who have prayed for us over our nearly 2 years here. We appreciate your prayers. They have helped us through the tough and the even tougher, as well as through the wonderful times.

God bless you all.


Tuesday 11th October 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve) - LATE UPDATE


Update: we now have a flat in Glasgow! We’ve got a place near Paisley town centre, 1st floor flat, overlooking a couple of bowling greens, and big enough and comfy enough to do us for the time being. Paisley is SO much cheaper than Glasgow. We were looking for something on the South Side (Shawlands/Newlands/Langside/King’s Park/Rutherglen/Croftfoot) but they were either scarce or expensive. And the cost of council tax…

We’ll give an update of our new address etc. shortly.


Tuesday 11th October 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Czech Factoids!

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

Flying Kiwi Observes: An Ice Hockey Match in Ceske Budejovice (Czech Republic)

Budvar Arena
Tuesday 11 Oct 2005
Ceske Budejovice vs Znojmo
Tickets: 50kc (standing), 100-120kc (seated)


Hokej is supposed to be a violent game, isn’t it? But as the opening hooter sounded, the players from the two teams poured gracefully out of the pit area, flowing in curving arcs around the arena. In movements seemingly choreographed yet spontaneous, like a flock of starlings swooping and diving, players carved tight furrows in the ice, beat the ground with their sticks; the teams faced each other as if combatants in primaeval battle, before being sucked back towards the pit area and reforming.

I am quite sure that I was the only spectator in the (magnificent) Budvar Arena wearing an All Blacks rugby jersey. Clearly, Hokej is not rugby. Can you imagine what damage Richard Loe could have inflicted had he had use of a hockey stick? And despite its violent reputation (at least in my eyes), hokej lacked the finer points of a brawl in a maul, eye gouging, flailing fists, or a bootful of sprigs in the face (or worse).

Am I the only expat Kiwi who, on attending a sports match in a foreign country, feels a perverse urge to hold up a sign saying “BRING BACK BUCK”? The question playing on my mind tonight is whether or not it should be translated into Czech… [to the uninitiated, Buck (Wayne) Shelford was a pretty awesome All Black captain a few years back] And I just realised that I forgot to wear my red socks. OK, I’m just weird.

The Game

Ice Hockey (hokej) is pretty much the national game in the Czech Republic. And the Czechs are very good at it, winning the recent world championships. Last season, due to a stalemate in negotiations between players and management in North America’s NHL league, the Czech regional teams had use of all their best exports, at least for a season. I am not sure if that’s still the case, but the quality of play seemed high. There were multiple shots on goal on target, and some phenomenally accurate passing at high speed.

The game started at an incredible pace, with the home team (domaci) taking an early lead. Cheered on by a small contingent of faithful fans, Znojmo equalised, then took the score to 2-1 up with a disputed goal that had to go to the video ref.

Somehow it had escaped me when watching matches on TV, that hokej consists of three (not four!) 20-minute periods, separated by 20 minute breaks. A perfect period of time in which to tackle a klobasa sausage with mustard and traditional Czech bread, and imbibe a local Budvar pivo. Czechs insist that beer is good for the digestion. I’m sticking to that excuse, as klobasa though tasty is incredibly fatty, and my digestion needs all the help it can get. Ahem.

The soundtrack to the game was provided by a well organised group of supporters with brass instruments and drums. They obviously practise, and take their music seriously. While it wasn’t the sound of Wales taking hymns to new heights, the band was jaunty and the musical gamut ranged from classics to In The Navy and Abba’s Dancing Queen. Even the cheer-leaders took their cue from the supporters band rather than the piped music.

In the last period, Ceske Budejovice equalised with a stunning effort to the back of the net, and took the game to extra time. Extra time is five minutes of frenetic, manic, helter skelter mayhem with 5 rather than 6 players per side. With one man in the sin bin for 2 minutes, Znojmo battled to defend shot after shot on goal, and miraculously held out to maintain the 2-2 draw.


Monday 10th October 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


I know the reason why God sent you to the Czech Republic”. So states Varya’s friend Zuzana as they meet today for the last time, over lunch.

Zuzana explains. Zuzana and Varya met for the first time at a British Council poetry reading. Varya invites Zuzana along to a Canadian night that we put on at OM, months ago. There, Zuzana bumps into an old friend who she hasn’t seen for years, who used to be involved in the church but is no longer. Zuzana and friend renew acquaintance, and now spend time not just catching up, but talking about life and faith.

I know the reason why God sent you to the Czech Republic.”


Saturday 8th October 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


Misa and Petr


A good friend of ours got married today. Miša goes to our church, was one of our Czech teachers, sings in the band that Steve plays in, and has a smile that lights up not only her face but an entire room.

There were many things about the wedding that we found surprising, compared to the sort of weddings that we are used to. It made us reflect on the centuries of tradition that have made English/Scottish[/NZ] weddings what they are, and how that influences our own expectations.


OK, well first of all, in the Czech Republic you have to have a civil ceremony. If you want a church wedding (and not many do), it does not and cannot hold legal weight. So you have two ceremonies, one at the Town Hall with only a few relatives and witnesses, and the other one in the church, where everyone else is invited.

Miša, as you can see, looked stunning in her wedding dress. We would have thought that she’d want to stay in it for as long as possible, but both she and Petr changed quickly out of their wedding clothes… Petr into cutoff jeans!

In most UK weddings, it would be understood (and perhaps stated) that there should be no photography during the saying of the vows. Not so here! There was a fair scrum around the happy couple…

There was no best man, no bridesmaids.

We heard about some other customs which are common in the Czech Republic though not observed at this wedding:

  • kidnapping of the bride - in which the bride is kidnapped by a bunch of friends, and the groom has to go out looking for her. He has to pay a fair ransom, which is then used as beer money for the kidnappers later.
  • feeding each other soup (sometimes this is from a spoon with holes in it !!!)

Saturday 1st October 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

A few months ago Varya was interviewed by UK’s “Woman Magazine”, one of the UK’s really big weeklies, for a series of articles they are doing on expats living abroad. At long last we have a date for the article coming out: 25th October!

Apparently the editor liked the article so much that it might go to double spread… yay! We’ve had loads of fun selecting lots of photos for them to choose from for the article, so we can’t wait to see how it all looks in just a few weeks time. Ironic that it comes out 5 days after we move back to the UK…

Don’t forget to get a copy! Apparently it’s the hallowe’en edition, but Varya is hoping that there will be some bits in the article where she talks about her faith and quotes John 3:16.

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