Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas has just begun

Well, this weekend was filled with many heartfilled moments. I missed my family in USA, but my friends in CZ tried their best to make me feel at home here. At moments everything was so new and different that it felt like a different holiday. New songs, different decorations, and the familiar stories read in a different language were all a part of this foreign culture. And yet, by Christmas Eve, it was all a part of me, too. Now the tunes of Czech Carols trigger Christmas memories for me, as much as the tunes of "White Christmas" and "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas". I've posted a few of our Christmas Eve photos on My Photos if you would like a little piece of what I experienced.
We had a little snow on Christmas morning, but the ground is still pretty bare. In many places the trees are covered in ice from fog freezing on the branches. Because of the rolling countryside some patches have frozen trees and snow, while other patches have green grass and green trees. So, since no one can ski, they're all spending time together and with friends. I'm visiting with people that are usually busy, and I'm glad to get to know them better. It feels as if Christmas has just begun, as I begin to feel at home here.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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

Meet Pepa; our Christmas dinner

Today we went to buy the Christmas Carp. Every Czech family buys a carp, sticks it in the tub for the kids to watch and play with, and then fries it up and serves it with potato salad on Christmas Eve. Mmm...I can't wait for the fried fish!
Christmas will be very different this year. We still don't have a Christmas tree, would you believe it? In CZ they don't decorate it until Christmas Eve. So Anna will get a tree from her father tomorrow(he always gives them a tree from his forest), and after church on Sunday morning, we will decorate the tree.
Maybe the best new thing, besides the fish, is the multitude of cookies and sweets. Every respectable woman, working or not, bakes at least 10 different kinds of cookies for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Mmm...Gingerbread cookies, shortbread cookies, cookies filled with jam, chocolate sweets, and so many cookies I've never seen before in my life. I miss brownies and chocolate chips, but I love rohlík cukrový, a sugary crescent-shaped shortbread-like cookie. I had plenty on Thursday night, because we had a party for my Adult Conversation Class. We had a special game of Dirty Santa. You'll never guess what I stole! An Ostrich Egg!! We will eat it tomorrow! More pictures and updates to come!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Živy Obraz

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

Get in the Christmas Spirit!

So, still no snow. We might not even have snow for Christmas. That may sound normal to those of you in Oklahoma, but it's so warm I feel like I'm in Oklahoma. Yesterday we had a little bit of snow, so I took some pictures. I'll be adding more pictures later this week and next week. So, I hope these pictures can help you get into some kind of christmas spirit. (The password is policka.)
And if that doesn't work, just follow this link. Well, follow this link anyway, it's really funny.

Friday, December 08, 2006

ST. Nick and his elves, I mean devils and angels

This week I experienced many Czech Traditions. We made Advent and Christmas wreaths, baked cookies which will be iced and eaten in the coming weeks, and we celebrated Mikolašek(St. Nicholas) Day. On this day older children go dressed as St. Nicholas, an angel, and a devil and they scare children and then give them treats. The students even do it in school. I took a lot of pictures, but here are the best.You see, St. Nick has this book, and it tells who's been naughty or nice. If you were good, you get sweets from the angel. If you were bad, you get stuffed into a sack and taken to Hell by the devil. You can avoid going to Hell by singing a song or reciting a poem.Here you see some familiar faces coming after me. They did try to stuff me in a sack, but luckily, I know a few songs.

Friday, December 01, 2006

It’s been a long, long, long, long, long time

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.)