Thursday, July 31, 2014

Prague: Good for the Soul

It really is hard to describe why Prague is so dear to my heart, except that it represents, as the country's capital, so much about Czech: the far reaching history, the pain endured, the joy of new beginnings, the peaceful revolutions, the art and creativity and sincerity and loyalty to the past.

Every time I stroll down another cobblestone street, wandering with my gaze fixed on the uniquely ornate buildings, I can't help but feel a certain comfort. This country, this city, this people, is part of who I am. These are not just buildings, roads, shops and strangers. These are all places and people that have made this country who they are today; and made me who I am today too. 

Our day started off early as we took the train to Prague (my favorite way to travel here). I love passing by villages and fields, soaking in the Czech countryside.

After we stepped off the train, we were pretty much on our feet for 7 hours non-stop exploring our favorite city. Even though our feet ached from walking on the cobblestones all day, somehow we couldn't just sit down because there is always more to see in Prague, no matter how many times we've been there.

Hannah, who I grew up with, hadn't been home in two years and I hadn't been home in a year. It is so special for both of us to be back, and we kept exclaiming giddily about every beautiful spot in Prague. "It's like Disneyland for adults," says Hannah, and she's right. She goes to Biola and lives not far from Disneyland, so she would know! :) 

I even got to stop by my favorite art gallery ever. Paintings get me every time. They are so valuable to me and they always set me dreaming of other lands and stories. Someone once told me, "The sign of Good art is when you miss it." I can say that I do miss the few paintings we have in our home by this artist. I grew up with Dima's paintings hanging as gems in our home.

And then of course the Charles Bridge is a must. That view is classic.

Our final must-see was here: the view from the castle, looking out at the City of Spires (there are 500 of them!).

I am thankful for Prague and for the many memories that have been made there. Thank you, Mom and Amy, for another memory! I think both Hannah and I feel very "tanked up" and filled to the brim with memories that we'll carry with us back to the States. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mountainside Picnic

There is never a dull moment with the wonderful Magda!

And what a reunion it was after not seeing each other for a whole year.

I used to go to school with Magda and we spent every day in the same classes together. Hayley, her and I are buddies. And she blows me away with her joy, faith, perseverance, genuine fun and love of life.

I picked Magda up at her house in a town about 45 minutes away and we made our way up the little roads to a special spot she had picked out.

Couldn't have a better place for a picnic dinner, sitting on an old bunker, overlooking the city:

Catching up with Magda was precious. She's getting married in a month, so I got to hear all about her wedding plans and preparations and about wedding traditions in Czech. I can't believe Hayley and I will miss the wedding (I fly back just before for school - sadness!), but our moms will be our representatives in September on the special day.

Magda makes me laugh. All the time. She has this silly side that makes anything joy filled.

Magda - I love you lots! And Hayley - we missed you today!

So thankful for this evening and for friendship. God is good.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


It's been a week and half now since I wore this name tag. And I wore it every day, all day, for five weeks.

Everyone gets a camp name at Gull Lake and your real name stays a secret from the campers until the end of the week. It's part of what makes camp fun and it's easier for the campers to remember the staff names when they're crazy and ridiculous (names like "Scate Goat" or "Princess Lay-a" are hard to forget!).

I made one of my name tags, but all the rest were made for me. I traded off wearing different ones during the day, mostly sticking to the one in the first picture, but using different ones whenever I felt like it. The one in the first picture was one Tyler made me and sent with my parents to camp when they came week 1. His creativity inspired one of the campers to do something similar - it's adorable!

The top middle one was the only one I made, and the others I received as gifts from little campers. So great!! Even my Cove Kids helped out and wanted to make me name tags. Every one represents a story and the names of precious kids I grew to love every week.

I think about Gull Lake a lot still. There were so many things I learned while I was there, things I was stretched in, and I pray for the staff who are still serving there. They're working hard for the Lord! 

It's such an interesting thing to be a part of an entire camp world for six weeks and then leave. To be called one name and then to be called another when you get home. Sometimes I miss being called "Czecholate". It's never easy leaving people you bonded with either.

But of course, this past week and a half has been much needed.

I read a whole book (For fun! Shocking!). I've gone grocery shopping with Mom often. We've visited with people and reconnected to familiar places here. I've watched thunderstorms roll in and out daily. I am speaking Czech again, which feels good. I missed that. Some words come a little slower to memory, but I've gotten into the groove of flipping between languages again, which is a relief, because I didn't know what to expect coming home (language skill-wise). 

This time is one of reflecting, of processing, of resting. I miss Chicago at times. I miss Gull Lake at times. And I'll miss Czech again when I leave. But I'm also soaking in every one of these places and being fully here. Breathing and living wherever God takes me. And I'm loving it, no matter how far apart each of these places is. I am thankful. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Senior Photos

Our friends Yvonne and Kyle, who visited us this past weekend, love photos. Kyle, who is now a senior, randomly said something about senior photos while we were in Krakow on Friday, and I jumped at the opportunity. They didn't know that I loved photography, but they were talking about it in a hypothetical "wouldn't it be cool to get your senior pictures here" kind of way. I'm glad they had the idea!

We took a couple in Krakow, but then the four of us - the two moms, Kyle and I - headed up to Malenovice (our JV training center) on Saturday morning before they had to be at the train station. What fun it was taking these photos and what a great way to end our time together - capturing moments!

Hope you have a great senior year, Kyle!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Outlets and Door Knobs

One of the questions I got most often in the States while working at Gull Lake was, "what are the biggest differences between here and Czech?"

One of these things is not like the other...

There are plenty of big differences! But that's a longer conversation. There are some little things though that I've especially noticed since being home again.

To give you a glimpse, here are five random differences between the two places I call "home"...

1. Electrical outlets

When I moved to the States, I actually missed European outlets! I find that plugs always fall out in America. I just always seem to be trying to balance a plug in an outlet because the prongs are so skinny and slip out easily! But I talked to another missionary friend here who is from the States who said the exact opposite - he misses American outlets. So it must be a matter of what you're used to.

2. Cars

The Ford F-Series (pickups, in essence) are the most popular cars in the States. We don't even have any form of pickup trucks here in Czech. People opt for smaller cars with good gas mileage.  Big cars are not really a thing here. It's all about efficiency. Trucks are a big deal in the States though, and they're useful too for different purposes!

3. Bathroom stalls

Yep, that's right. They are different! (So is cheap toilet paper, by the way) Czech bathroom stalls typically go from floor to ceiling, and don't have gaps between the door and the stall. Some people might feel claustrophobic because you're basically in a tiny room a lot of the times, but I find that it's way less awkward that way.

When I worked at Gull Lake, some of the five-year-olds thought it was the funniest thing to lock the door and crawl out beneath the door. When I was a kid, I can recall panicking because I would lock myself into a bathroom and there was no way out but through the door. I guess there's advantages to both kinds!

4. Roads

Roads everywhere in Czech are so much smaller than in the States! Even a road through a small town in Michigan is much wider than our road that goes through town here. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to this too. Small roads = also less cars, hence less stressful sometimes, but not always. Big roads = more space, not as tight, but there are also a lot more cars, so maneuvering can be stressful at times.

Last but not least...

5. Door handles vs. Door knobs

Ooh, which is better, do you think? 

I can't think of a house in Czech that I've seen door knobs in. We have them on some random old doors, but it's definitely not the norm. All outside and inside doors have door handles on them (which I personally find a lot easier to use!). What would your preference be?

Those are just some of the small differences. I wish I could sit with you over coffee and talk about all the other differences too. I find it fascinating and curious to talk about. 

(All images were found on Google)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Krakow: A Gem

I can't remember the last time I went to Krakow just to visit and enjoy the city. It's not too far of a drive from home, but I don't remember even seeing some of the most famous sights in Krakow. 

Some friends from the States came to stay with us for a couple of days before heading to their English Camp on the other side of Czech. When they mentioned they would love to see Krakow, I was thrilled when Mom got excited about the idea and we made plans to take a trip there the next day. I finally got to see the city on a beautiful summer day and enjoy it without any other agenda (like an airport run, or passport renewal, etc). 

It could not have been a more perfect day to stroll across plazas, into gardens and down cobblestone roads. 

It's good to be in Europe again. I'm thankful for new friends (on my part), old friends (Yvonne knew my parents 29 years ago!), and the majesty of the Lord, which He displays through His creation and by how he gifted people to make such beautiful things like castles and palaces.

P.S. Thankfully, the flu was only a 24-hour one, so I felt fine again in Krakow. Thank you Lord!