Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Well, It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, just not the American kind. This morning we were greeted by one of the Scouts coming from Jerusalem with the light of Christ. They come door to door sharing candles caring the light of Christ from Bethlehem. Then Majda and I watched Anna prepare the Czech Christmas Bread Vanočka. We can't eat it until tomorrow, and I can tell you, it smells fantastic! So fantastic that I don't smell the dead fish. Yes, Pepa's live ended this afternoon when Jan killed and filleted him. Did you know the mouth on a fish still moves for several minutes after it's disconnected from the body? It's so strange! It's as if the head were still alive! I also posted some pictures from the Christmas play last weekend on the photo site. Here's a picture of our t-shirts that we got a Christmas present from the Sunday School teachers. That's the name of the play around the little girl. Isn't she adorable, or something.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Visit the Presby Present in Polička, CZ! Just look through my new photos(link in last post). You'll walk through Polička at night and then visit our church. I'll post pictures from our Christmas play from this morning later. I'm completely exhausted, and this week hasn't even begun! Oh, but it was such a wonderful day!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
And if that doesn't work, just follow this link. Well, follow this link anyway, it's really funny.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
So I realized the other day that I hadn’t posted in almost a month! I’m so sorry. I was trying to get myself used to posting on Fridays, and then I had a few Fridays where I couldn’t post, and I just can’t fit it in any other day. So here I am, finally finding a free Friday.
November was emotionally a huge month for me. I had a wonderful birthday, mixed with joy and sadness. I was very homesick, but many people made me feel loved. It reminded me of the phrase, “Home is where the heart is.” We were talking about the meaning of this phrase in one of my classes and, especially now, I understand it to mean that you feel at home where you feel close to others. Maybe this is just because I’m a people person, but I am feeling more at home, now that I have deeper relationships with some people here. Up until a few weeks ago, I had felt very alone. Even though I’m living in a house with 5 other people and my moments to myself are sometimes few, I felt like a sore thumb, sticking out anywhere I went. Then, as I formed some closer relationships with individual people, I started to feel like I wasn’t just that American girl, but rather I’m a friend to many of the people around me. I’m socializing, finally, and forming relationships, more of what I came here to do.
Last month was mainly about Thanksgiving in the classes. We talked about “remembering:” how we remember things, what we remember, and sharing memories. On Thanksgiving, I decided to make some stuffing for my adult conversation class as a way of celebrating the day. Although it was a lot of work without stove top stuffing :), it paved the way for some fun discussion about culture. For homework, I asked them to bring something from Czech culture to share with me for this week, and we talked about a lot of cultural differences. We had some good laughs and somber moments (and they brought me some ginger bread!).
I will bring this post to a close with a small note that we have had an abnormally warm fall here in Polička. I keep getting these emails from people that it’s snowing in the US, but I think we won’t get snow for another week. It’s weird. It almost doesn’t feel like December without snow. Today I started to listen to Christmas music(a little late for me), and I’m heading to Prague to see the big Christmas markets and look at the lights. It’s starting to feel like Christmas. I’ve been hearing about some exciting Czech traditions, but I’m still waiting to experience them. So, a merry Advent to you! (Would you believe they actually make fresh advent wreaths every year here? Yeah, with real dried oranges, fresh branches, and dried flowers. Imagine that.)
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Someone might ask, "Kati, what do you do with your free time?"
Well, besides traveling, I would say, "I search for games and activities that allow me and the kids to have fun at the same time." Last week we played people Foosball, where they had to stay on a line, playing soccer like they were the Foosball table. Last night we played human bowling, where I got to tape up the boys, right when I had almost had enough of them, and then we threw balls at them. Seeing them upset, having fun, hating you and loving you all in the same moment, that's one of the best parts about teaching. Last night was the second of three overnights that Jan and I are having with the youth from the church. Ah, the chaos. Well, I'm off to Prague for a meeting. I just thought you would like this picture.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Like many teachers at this time of year, I find myself asking, “How do I teach about Thanksgiving?” I want to give the students a good lesson in history, using simple English, teaching them new words, teaching about Thanksgiving, and giving them an accurate view of Native Americans/American Indians/ Native Peoples/ Cherokee, Seminole, etc.--pick your favorite expression. And yet, I find myself doing more and more research and racking my brain to decide what to do with all of the misconceptions. I’m reading article after article about the “truth” about Thanksgiving, and so I’ve had to ask myself,“What is important? What can I share? What does Thanksgiving mean to me?”
Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that I think it’s a symbol of cultures coming together to share customs, wisdom, resources and thanks. The Wampanoag Tribe of the Northeast had the knowledge of centuries of experience living in those lands, and they shared their wisdom with the new English visitors. “The Thanksgiving Feast” symbolized the victory of overcoming their differences, finding a common ground, and surviving. We remember this day frozen in time, looking through rose colored glasses, if you like. I will share with them what I know to be true about a few different Native American tribes. I will share images of American Culture as the Melting Pot/Tossed Salad of immigrants and native peoples looking for freedom. Finally I will share our customs practiced today as we celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. My own celebration will be in this act of sharing culture and thanksgiving with my students.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Well, winter is finally here in the Czech Republic. Last night we had our first snow, and believe it or not it’s still snowing. I went to Prague for the last two weekends and both times I prepared for some cold winds, and ended up carrying my scarf and jacket. I thought to myself, “Madison, is having colder weather, and I survived there for the last three winters. I can take this.” Now we’ll see how many layers I have to wear under my new coat (this is the coat the friendly woman gave me in Switzerland if you remember from the post in September).
Speaking of Prague, I had a nice time getting a mix of American and Czech culture there. I looked at Czech art, visited Czech buildings, and ate American Food. It’s strange how visiting Prague feels like visiting a large city in the US. I think it’s because of the masses of cars, billboards, and American fast food chains. Oh, yeah, and everyone speaks English in Prague. It really is an amazing city. Being there and seeing the historic places, you realize the power it once had, and at the same time, in the smaller cities, you realize how much communism can destroy in such a short amount of time. I think it will be interesting to see what CZ looks like after 40 years of democracy.
Earlier this week we had our long awaited Halloween Party. I have posted pictures on the photo site (again, password policka) with descriptions of what we did. It was a little crazy, having so many kids of such a large variation of ages. There are many things I wish I had done differently, but the important part is that everyone had a great time. Maybe my favorite part was that someone donated a pumpkin for us to carve and use as a decoration! The first class of 6th-7th graders dug out the seeds, chose a design for the face, and then carved it themselves. I was so excited to share this experience with them. I’m so sorry I didn’t get any pictures of them carving, but I do have this picture of the pumpkin. You’ll see more about what we did in the pictures, so I won’t go on forever about the party, but I will say this. I owe a lot to Jan, Anna, and my mom and sister for helping me with the preparations and the party itself. My mom and sister sent me many things to share with the kids, and Jan and Anna helped in more ways that I can count. When I first thought of having the party I never dreamed how big it could get. It was a lesson in “Always plan for needing help.” I didn’t realize how much help I would need, and I should have asked for more helpers to commit to being there. I had expected Parents to come, and now I’m not sure why I thought that. For the next party, I plan to have plenty of people ready to help. I can’t do it alone, and I shouldn’t try to do it that way either.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Friday, October 13, 2006
This week we talked about Fall and things that change. We were blessed with beautiful weather this week, and so we played outside in the yard. With the older kids, we also talked about things that don't change with the seasons, like good friendships. Then with the younger kids we also learned to say "thank you" when someone gives you something. I want to thank all of you for your support and friendships. I have had momentary battles with being homesick and feeling overwhelmed with work. Then I get an email or a card or a package from a friend back home, and I feel you here with me. I miss you all, and I want to thank you for letting me know that your friendships will endure through my time away from home.
I'm just about to send out the second issue of my newsletter that comes through the snail mail. If you didn't receive the first one and you want to be on my mailing list, just send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your address. Unfortunately, I left my CPC directory in OK. I had it packed, but somehow it didn't make it. So, for some of you, I just don't have your contact information. I'm sorry. I would love to send you a copy of the short newsletter with details about the classes and my cultural experiences.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Wow, We've actually completed two days of classes, plus two successful English Parties! We're having a great time. I'm having a great time. I must say that I never thought that it was possible to feel exhausted and exhilarated at the same time, but that is how I feel right now. I taught at the High School today(Anna and I gave the first test! ugh!) and when it was time for the class in the church, I thought I was too tired. And yet, when I got upstairs to the classroom, I found all of this energy. I love working with these kids, seeing how they respond. I have just posted new pictures from the English Party. You can click on the link to my pictures and the password is policka. I hope you can enjoy seeing the faces of these kids. They're really fantastic!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Tomorrow will be the start of it all with the first of our two English Parties (Thursday and Friday) to kick off this session of English Classes. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support! I’ve been adding some more names to the Prayer Wall, and it reminds me that I’m not here doing this alone. It also reminds me why I'm here, to build relationships and have a good time with the people in this loving community.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Our trip to France was incredible. We first traveled through Switzerland and visited with some of Jan’s friends. Jan and Anna were telling them about how I’ve started to get cold in CZ. (I bought some nice warm, woolen slippers, and I have the beautiful shawl I received from CPC :-), and I’ve already started to use them before we left). Jan’s friend Nicole left the table and came back with a very nice, heavy coat for me(this was actually perfect timing, because we were sitting outside and I was cold at that moment, and trying to decide how to break into the conversation and ask to go get a sweater from the car). Then she said that it fit so well (and it does) that I should keep it! Later on our trip, Anna and I even found the perfect matching hat. So, rest assured that I will be warm this winter.
We stayed in a retreat center/hotel on the beach of the Mediterranean in Cete, France. Wow, I’ve never seen blue like that before. The first few days were cold and cloudy, but my pictures are still really blue. I think the sea held out on us, so that we could truly appreciate its beauty with or without the sun. I loved to watch the locals, who came to just sit and admire the sea. I, too, ended up just sitting on the beach, not swimming or tanning. Swimming was fun, but just admiring the sea, listening to the wind, was better. It made me think of all of the good times I had with my family at North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. It was hard being there without them.
Traveling to France, I expected to eat a lot of cheese. The journey through Switzerland seemed to strengthen my expectation. A church provided a meal ending with several varieties of cheese and chocolate. A family shared with us a traditional Swiss meal called Raclette—heated cheese plus whatever you want over boiled potatoes. Mmmm...that was good. When we finally arrived in France, we did eat cheese, but it always came at the end of a large meal, when I was already full. And then they brought fruit or a dessert. Back home, we have the saying, “There’s always room for Jello/Ice Cream,” and that we have a separate dessert stomach. Well, I think the French have a separate cheese stomach.
We ended up eating a lot of Seafood. I didn’t truly understand the meaning of the word "seafood" before this trip…that you actually “see” what came from the “sea” and is now your “food.” The first night we ate clams…from the shells. Sure people do it everyday, but it was my first time. It’s hard to get those suckers out of there, especially if you’re trying not to look. And each day we ate more and more seafood with a little turkey here and there. One night we ate snails. I lost my appetite trying to get the second one out of the shell. Ugh! The final night we had octopus fixed in a fantastic tomato sauce. Mmmmmmm…That was good. Thank goodness they served us the meat in pieces! As an appetizer to the final meal, they had a Sardinade (a sardine barbeque in the picture above). The sardines were grilled and served as whole fish. It was a little disturbing, pulling the meat from the spine while holding onto the head and gills, but they tasted pretty good.
As if the mix of new cultures, food, and surroundings wasn’t enough, we were speaking a mixture of English, French and Czech all of the time. Some people only spoke one language, but several spoke two and sometimes three. I feel so blessed that Anna translated the Bible Study discussions for me. It allowed me to participate and gain insights from the studies and lectures. I had two roommates: Melanka, who speaks only Czech and French, and Evelyn, who speaks French, Czech, and English. We were constantly going back and forth between all three languages. It was challenging and fun at the same time. I am to the point that I can frequently guess what someone is talking about in French or Czech, but just not understand the details. I can read Czech aloud almost exactly correct. I started translating with my dictionary during our trip to France. Sometimes the more I learn, the more difficult it seems. The phrases I learn from listening stick best in my memory.
The phrase “Ma Vlast (My Country)” has more meaning for me everyday. Jan and Anna keep saying, “That’s so American” when I do things, and it always comes as a shock to me. It's funny, because I've never really thought of myself as a typical American, and I'm not sure I would know how to define one. I think patriotism is difficult in America, mostly because we have so many immigrants, proud of their heritage or homeland. And we are encouraged to be different and choose or “find” our unique identity. It’s been my experience that we choose which state to live in, which church to go to, which food to eat, which school to go to, and then we change to new ones as if the first didn’t really matter. It’s almost like the US is one big buffet of culture, religion, occupation, and food. We are so separated by state lines that I have always felt like NY, Washington, DC, and LA were just big cities, but not a part of my heritage. Before now I had seen national pride as almost derogatory towards other countries, that “you think your country is the best,” but that’s not it at all. They are proud of their country, because it belongs to them and they to it. The more countries I visit, the smaller and more intimate America seems to me. I’m beginning to see myself as “American” rather than just the member of one state, one city. Seeing beautiful and historic areas in Europe leads me to think of similar places that I love in America, my country, my history. Seeing the patriotism of the Czechs, French and Swiss, I’m finally understanding what it means to be “proud to be an American.”
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
I’m learning more Czech everyday, and I’m constantly picking up more and more words. I have been to several meetings, all in Czech, to meet other teachers and church members. It’s amazing what you can learn about people just by the way they participate, even if you don’t know their language.
God shows His presence to me everyday. This weekend was full of mountains that I thought I couldn’t climb, but he brought me up and over them.
First, I went with Pastor Jan on a Youth retreat with some of the youth from the Church. It’s hard enough to speak the language of High School kids, and it’s almost impossible when you really don’t speak their language. I tried speaking to some of them, but it was asking a lot of them and me. 24 hours of living in a completely foreign speaking environment will give you a different look at language. Luckily one of the younger girls spoke with me and included me in the conversations with her friend who didn’t speak much English. On the second day, I taught them to play a piece of music on the Hand Chimes that we brought from the church. Half of them didn’t read music, so they just knew what beat to play and somehow, by the grace of God, they came in at the right time. They did so well, and they all came and played for the service on Sunday morning. It was fantastic. I can still see their faces. The music enabled me to communicate with all of them at the same time even if they didn’t speak English. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!
Next, I led a children’s choir after the church service with Stepanka, one of the women in the church. We started with repeating rhythms, and then I taught them a song, Father, I Adore You, in Czech. Marta, Jan’s daughter, helped me translate it from the English. Some of the boys thought it was pretty funny listening to me teach them Czech words when I didn’t always sing some sounds correctly. They sang anyway, and we had a good time doing it.
I think that’s all for now. Next Monday I will leave with Anna and Jan for a Bible Retreat in Southern France, so I will be traveling again soon. And life was just about to become normal (Well, as normal as you can get living in another country, speaking in another language, and working with youth).
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Although this week was tough, the family taught me that some things are worth climbing mountains. The thing is that you have to decide for yourself, what’s worth climbing for? a waterfall? the sunset? finding your faith? sharing God’s love? I will hold the image of climbing in my memory, mostly the fact that I did this thing that I thought was impossible and more than impossible, something I thought I would never do. It’s amazing what you can do when your friends want to share a place that carries special significance to them.
*Nohavica is this incredible Czech folk singer. He sings funny songs, political songs, love songs, sports songs….everything. Even when I didn’t know what he was saying, I cried in the sad songs and laughed with the funny songs. You can read about his fascinating life or listen to his songs at http://www.nohavica.cz/_en/novinky/nov_aktual.htm.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I am nothing
Ginny Owens (Christian Pianist and Singer)
I could travel over oceans, cross the deserts, climb the mountains
Just to share Your story, bring You glory, and win souls for You.
I could sing like an angel, songs so humble and so thankful
Full of drama and emotion, so the world would know Your truth.
I could give away my money and my clothes and my food
To restore those people who are poor, lost, and down-and-out.
Oh, I could succeed at all these things,
Find favor with peasants and kings,
But if I do not love, I am nothing.
Songs will fade to silence,
Stories, they will cease.
The dust will settle, covering all my selfless deeds.
So as I strive to serve You,Won't You make it clear to me,
If I do not love, I am nothing.
This week was about Love; love for one another, love from God. I've never laughed and cried so hard with complete strangers, let alone strangers speaking English either as a second language or not at all. It was an amazing week, and I'm so excited to see what lies in store for this year. More pictures have been posted and will be posted throughout the next month. I will write more about what we did as I post the pictures.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
My soul waits calmly for God alone.
My salvation, my hope, comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my savior--my stronghold.
I cannot be severely shaken.
The waiting is over. I am here. I've posted some pictures, so czech out our journey to Polička!
Hint: the pictures are best viewed as a slide show. The password is policka.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
I feel like I've been saying goodbye all week long. June 23 was my last day at WardBrodt and some of my friends were out of town this week, so I started saying goodbye last Friday and this morning was the last goodbye, as I locked my apartment door. Last Sunday I said “goodbye for now” to my CPC family. There were some tearful moments Sunday morning at church and Sunday evening at a party that the Evans family had for me. Throughout the weekend-plus I met with friends for almost every meal, sometimes adding extra meals when necessary. These people have loved, encouraged, and challenged me all throughout my journey in Madison. I'd say I miss them already, but I still feel them with me.
Czech out the photos from this week on my photo site(more to be posted throughout the week):
http://www.czechmyphotos.shutterfly.com/ the password is policka.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire.
He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be astounded.
They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40
This is my prayer and declaration of faith. Please join me in prayer for this mission, the youth in Policka, Pastor Jan, and my own strength, inspiration, and patience. Let me know that you are praying, and I'll add your name to my prayer wall (in the right column of my blog) so that I can in turn pray for you and give thanks to God.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
My address in Policka:
nabrezi svobody 561
Policka 572 01
Pastor Jan has estimated our expenses to give you a better idea of our financial needs:
My health insurance: $1200
other insurances: $250
Room and Board: $4000
Teaching aids: $4200 ($350 a month)
My stipend for pocket money: $2400 ($200 a month)
Air ticket: $1500
Total cost for the project: 13,550
Jan's family has decided to provide the room and board for free ($4000). My parents are willing to pay for my air-ticket. The congregation in Policka is brave enough to run into debt and to cover the difference, but is asking for help. (For your information, the total expected income of the congregation of this year is $19125.) So, as you see, any help will be more than welcome.
Checks should be made payable to "Ceskobratrska cirkev evangelicka Policka" (that is the name of the congregation) and can be mailed to:
Ceskobratrska cirkev evangelicka Policka
nabrezi svobody 561
Policka 572 01
As soon as the congregation receives the check, Jan will send you an official certification from the congregation that can be used as tax deductible.
More information about the congregation can be found at http://policka.evangnet.cz (click on the British flag for English).
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Monday, March 27, 2006
Saturday, March 25, 2006
I also currently work with two other young adults to lead a middle school girls' bible study at Christ Presbyterian Church in
I have a degree in Flute Performance from
My most relevant church history begins in
I moved to
in the summer of 2005. I volunteer with Interfaith Hospitality Network, a program where we host 4-5 homeless families in our church four times a year. I also help organize events for C-YA, a group of college students and young adults.
I have three main passions: God, Music, and People. Everything in my life points to my fascination with and love for them. Know this and you know me.