Tuesday, April 30, 2013

School: "The Last Bell"

"Poslední zvonění."
= The last bell.

Poslední zvonění is a tradition that has been going on for decades here in Czech. On the senior class' last day of school (before the first part of maturita starts), students dress up in crazy costumes and go walking around town asking for money. Usually this money goes towards the class' last get-together before leaving school, but mainly it's a fun tradition and something we all can look forward to in our senior year.

Today, we had our last day of school! Before picking up our end of semester report cards, we traipsed around town, playing music, singing, and looking ridiculous. And we enjoyed ourselves while doing it! People were very generous and kind. Older ladies commented on how cold we must be, some asked what school we were from, and others just smiled and dropped a little change in the straw hat we were holding.

It made me a little uncomfortable asking strangers for money, but it's all a part of the tradition! I sheepishly followed along and giggled my way through the morning. Smile and wave, smile and wave. And say 'thank you' (or děkuji). My classmates were more brave though, giving compliments for 10 kč (about 50 cents), and singing Czech "campfire songs" at the top of their lungs. It was awesome.

I treasure every last experience with this class, not to mention every typically Czech experience too. I've been with the same group of 25 for four years, and am thankful for all of them! I'm going to miss you guys, my dear class!

One of our teachers (who works somewhere other than the school as well) saw us from her office window, and wanted to give us a little something too!

After we were all done outside, we went back to school and received our report cards. Can't believe this is the last time I sat in this classroom with this group of people.

And finally, you might be curious what I wore today. I decided on a Venetian mask, a colorful scarf and some yellow shoes!

What a memorable day all together. Oh, and we also put up our tablo today! Pictures to come soon!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Quick trip to Prague

Last week my wallet was stolen. I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but it did.

I got an e-mail from my bank in America telling me that someone had tried to use my debit card to purchase something in Slovakia. Crazy! Thankfully, my bank denied the purchase, and I was able to block the card before anything else happened. 

Unfortunately, my passport was also in my wallet. Since my passport is my most important identification here, I needed to get it replaced quickly!

Getting a new passport required a trip to Prague, since that's where we have to go to the embassy. We hopped on a train early this morning, spent an hour or so at the embassy, sat in Starbucks for a bit, poked around Prague, and took an afternoon train back home.

This is definitely not how I expected to spend my Monday, but I am thankful for it. Everything went smoothly, and I got to spend a day with my parents in one of my favorite cities. Getting a wallet stolen is unnerving, and a little scary, but God is redeeming that experience!

I am actually glad I am learning how to deal with this now, with my parents around, in an environment that is familiar to me. I will definitely be more mindful and careful with my wallet/purse (not that I wasn't before, just maybe not as much as I should be). Since I'm moving to Chicago, that is something I'm glad I am learning now and not there (the hard way!).

This isn't an experience I would have chosen to go through (especially right before maturita), but it's taught me a lot. Mom wanted me to learn how to deal with these kinds of situations, so I was the one to call my bank, report everything to the police, and fill out all the forms needed. Though I got a little nervous handling those things, it's good practice! Gotta learn some day!

* Also, you may have heard about the gas explosion in Prague today. We didn't see or hear it happen, but we were not far from the place of the explosion. The public transportation (above ground) was completely stopped, trams lined up one after another, waiting for things to clear up. Thankfully, we were unaffected by this sad event, but my heart goes out to those who were! Please pray for the people who were hurt and their families.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Last night, I got to see something incredible. I was giddy and so excited. I sat outside on our patio and watched the sky light up behind my favorite mountain.

This moonrise was stunning, enchanting, and mesmerizing. I've never seen anything like it.

God, you're amazing!!

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" 
-Psalm 8: 1

"He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
    and turns deep darkness into the morning
    and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
    and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the Lord is his name;" 
- Amos 5:8

Friday, April 26, 2013

The truth about Spring

Spring is here. The grass turns greener. The trees show their first leaves. The sun glows. Kaylee lounges happily in the warmth.

But then...


Sorry, I killed the nice quaint moment. Yes, it's allergy season for me. I love love love Spring, but sneezing and the sniffles put a damper on everything. I'd like to spend all day outside, but that would make things worse.

Does anybody know of any tried and true remedies for those pesky allergies? I feel like I have done everything, but still have the same symptoms every year. I'm open to anything that could help!!

Ah well, I'm still not going to let that spoil the joy of new colors, warmth and life!

Spring: Welcome!
Allergies: Please go away.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Brilliant study tool

I just found the best new study tool! I am so excited about it.

I stumbled upon a computer application called "Self Control" while looking up some info on Spark Notes. Spark Notes was helpful, but this app is even more helpful! The concept is simple: sometimes we can't concentrate when we work on the computer, so SelfControl does self-controlling work for you.

If you're at all like me, it's easy to get distracted with the Internet at my fingertips. Facebook? Pinterest? Blogs? Sometimes I want to turn off my internet, or close my browser, but I always end up turning it back on because I usually need to look for information online to help me with projects or while studying. Thankfully, with this app, my distraction level will go way down.

Download the app here: http://selfcontrolapp.com/, and keep it handy for days when you really should concentrate. After you download it, you can type in which websites you want to block, and for a set time (the time period you choose), you will not have access to those sites. Genius!! Even if you turn the app off, or turn your computer off, you still will not have access. This app is smart.

(Too bad I still have my phone...but that's easier to just turn off and put aside than my computer!)

My written tests for Maturita are next week!!! My oral exams (the most important part) are in exactly 4 weeks. Phew. I definitely am going to need this app.

I hope this app helps you somehow! Happy working/studying/focusing!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

BMA Catch-it 2013

This weekend we had our annual student-led BMA weekend retreat. By God's grace, this retreat has been happening for five years now! And I feel that every year something new is brought to BMA through this retreat, we become more like a family than before, and we get to talk openly about our lives and beliefs. What a blessing to have been a part of this retreat for four years!

There are two reasons why we call this retreat "Catch-it". The first is that we play baseball! We don't have baseball in Czech, so students learn and get to play, which we all have fun doing. The second meaning is to "catch", as in "grasp". Grasp what Christianity is all about. Find out more about Jesus. Hear about what it means to be in a relationship with God.

Some of the highlights of the weekend...

Laughing. Oh yes, we laughed so much!

Games. We played some great games this year! If you are curious about what is going on in these pictures, or need some inspiration for these kinds of games, feel free to write me! (My e-mail address is in the "About me" tab)

 The teaching. Mel and Amy Ellenwood did such a great job!

Leading with this team.

These people. Yes, I spend every day with them at school, but getting to know each of them individually this weekend was so much better than just saying hi in the hallways.

Yet again, I feel super sad that I won't be here for the next Catch-it's, and really thankful for the privilege of being a part of this BMA family too for four years!

I only have four more weeks before Maturita, and then I'm done at BMA. Wow. Hard to believe. Definitely feel excited for that day (from a "i'm-done-with-high-school" standpoint), but after a weekend like this, I don't want to leave! Soaking in these days.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Out of the ordinary?

This may not be the prettiest post you've ever seen, but only because it's about taking out the trash. Of course, Katka is beautiful, so you can just focus on that, instead of the blue bags.

I never would have written anything about taking out the trash, but Katka told me yesterday that our way of going about it is actually kind of abnormal, which surprised me and made me laugh! It always seemed normal to me.

We live in a pretty small village. New houses are being built around us now, but for a long time there wasn't much out here. I'm guessing that's why we don't have "personal" (as in, house to house) garbage service. Garbage men don't come to pick up our trash during the week. We have to take it ourselves.

We don't have to take it far, but we do have to carry it down the road about 300m and throw it into a dumpster, which is used by all the surrounding houses. I never really thought twice about this system, but Katka told me that most people don't walk their trash anywhere.

What do I know?? Maybe it isn't that strange. I actually like this system! You don't have to put your trash out at a certain time of the week, and we only pay a minimal fee to have the dumpster sit on that street corner. It gets a little complicated when it's full, but then you just wait for the garbage men to pick it up and drop off a new one, and all is well!

Though you may not have come here to read about dumpsters and trash, this does give you a window into our everyday life. I often don't notice little cultural differences between here and the States, so here's to documenting one of them!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bringing Italy here

My parents are in Italy this week, speaking at a marriage conference in the area of Tuscany. Meanwhile, Katka (a longtime friend of ours...she babysat me when I was little!) is staying with me, so that I don't have to be here alone all the time. I can drive, cook, clean and make fires, but I don't like being in an empty house for too long! I am realizing more and more that I am a verbal processor, and keeping all those words in my head during the day is not a great idea!

Mom sent me a few pictures of where they're staying, and it makes my heart flutter a bit (meaning, it's charming!). I knew I had to bring a little piece of Italy to our home too this week.

I have only ever been to Venice and Pisa, and have never experienced real, authentic Italian food, but I'd like to think my pasta dish yesterday tasted at least a little like what you might find there at a local restaurant. Ok, maybe it wasn't that extraordinary. I did use gluten-free pasta from a bag, after all. I don't think that quite measures up! But it was tasty! I even indulged in a little mozzarella (even though I'm lactose-intolerant), because it's worth it for this dish.

Click here for the recipe: Mozzarella basil pasta

- The longer you cook the sauce, the tastier it will be
- I used Sam Mill's gluten-free pasta
- Add some spinach
- Add sun-dried tomatoes
- Add chicken, for some extra protein

I am loving the weather these days. Finally, Spring has arrived! The light was so beautiful, so I couldn't resist taking the [food] pictures outside. It may be a little funny to you that I would go to all that trouble to take a picture, but it's worth it! Natural light wins every time, and the light inside just didn't cut it.

Also, on a side note, this week I am finally getting around using only the manual setting on my camera for taking pictures. I honestly never thought it made much difference, but I can now say that it does!! I feel like the pictures look the way I actually imagined them in my mind to look. I still have so much to learn, but slowly, I'm figuring it out!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Soaking it in

I'm soaking in the sunshine this week, and so are these little flowers.

These crocuses fought their way through the snowy weather, and now they deserve the spotlight and the warmth of Spring. Though the snow was cold and the winter hard, they still come up just as beautiful, because that's how God created them! May this be a reminder to you in tough times as well! God always knows there is beauty on the other side of winter, and we can be comforted by this too.

Friday, April 12, 2013

To Moravia!

I went on my last school trip today.

Every Spring we have a "výlet". Our teachers take us somewhere historical or interesting for a day. We usually ride on a bus for hours, and it reminds me of grade school. It's charming all the same. I've made some great memories on those trips!

This year, we visited an old village in the heart of Moravia. We learned more about Cyril and Methodius, Great Moravia and about old jewelry, houses and traditions. I personally don't have much "emotional connection" to that time in history, but our history teacher's excitement made it fun.

Our history teacher, who came with us on our trip, is retired (he's in his 70's), but loves history so much that he stays to teach at BMA even now. I have never met anyone who knows more about history than Mr. Skotnica! He can tell you any date, any name, any place that you would like to know about without any hesitation. He tells stories about it with a twinkle in his eye, and with such interest! 
Our history teacher, and a random goat wanting in on the excitement!
Though the day was not particularly exciting, my dear friend Magda and I made the best of it. We enjoyed the warmer climate of this region of the country, stopping whenever we saw flowers or animals (though that has nothing to do with warmth..hehe). The rolling hills also presented a change of scenery!

Magda brings so much fun and laughter to my everyday life. I'm glad I got to spend the day with her!

At first, I have to admit, I didn't want to go on this trip. It seemed like a long ways to travel just to see some little wooden houses and a quaint town or two. I'm glad I went though. I cherish every single classically "Czech experience" these days. In Chicago I won't be able to take a bus ride and see a gorgeous church, or thatched roofs and pigs and goats. I'm soaking in these days, both to see Czech places, and to spend time with my friends.

Good memories in the end. Cultural experiences are priceless!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Easy lunch

We all have days when there just isn't anything in the fridge to eat for lunch. Neither my mom or I feel like going shopping, so we just make do with what's around. But what does that actually mean? What do I eat on days like these?

A tuna sandwich.

Ok, this might not be your dream food, but I actually really love tuna sandwiches. When I was little we visited our grandparents in Oregon, and my grandma would often make us tuna sandwiches on fluffy white bread. Now, I can't have normal bread anymore, but Schar bread tastes just as good to me (except that it's not white, which is even better, I guess!).

When I can't find much in the fridge, all I need are a few teaspoons of mayo, a can of tuna, and some bread that I store in the freezer. Easy! If I happen to have a veggie around, great! I add that to my lunch as well. The whole thing takes about 2 minutes to prepare, is full of protein, and it's just satisfying to me.

Here's to the easiest tuna sandwiches you'll ever make!

1 can tuna (without oil)
3 tsp mayonaisse
2 slices gluten-free bread
Veggies, optional
Pickles, optional

Mix mayo and tuna in a small bowl. Toast gluten-free bread. Slice veggies. Serve either with veggies inside sandwich or on the side.

On the weather side of things...Spring really is here, I think!! Yesterday I kicked the snow off of one place from our little garden to see if the crocuses were still alive. They were sad-looking, smashed and icy. I think I may have kicked up a root or two trying to get down to the ground (it was completely covered in snow), but today I had a special surprise waiting for me.

Yes, they are alive!! It amazes me that these delicate flowers can survive the snow we just had and still be so beautiful. God's creation is pretty awesome!

Question of the day: 

What is your go-to lunch on a busy day?