Ještě něco

A good hostess, or sales person for that matter, will be sure to ask you, “Would you like anything else?” In Czech the phrase becomes "ještě něco"- "something more?" As I’ve been keeping my other blog this year about my experiences teaching English in CZ, it became more of a journal about our ministry and my cultural experiences. Several times I’ve found myself looking for a way to share “a little something more” about the frivolous yet exciting things in my life. And so, my third blog begins.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Another year, another birthday

I felt right at home in the Czech Republic on my birthday last week. Many of my friends from the US sent me wonderful boxes full of goodies and notes to remind me of their love, and my friends here in the Czech Republic didn't let me feel homesick for a moment. One of my friends took me to Brno to see the downtown and shop in their wonderful shopping mall. Many people go to Brno to shop. After several stores, I wasn't quite sure how they shopped there, because everything was so expensive. Then we went to some cool stores with good prices and I felt like I could see where they found some good deals. We had a lot of fun and I'm glad that I got to spend time with Ilona and her boyfriend Jirka.I went back to Policka after that to teach a class and practice with our Band. Then after our rehearsal some of my students took me out for Pizza. I didn't realize they would give me gifts, too. They brought me some very nice things like cds of cool Czech music they play at the dances so I can learn them, plus they gave me a puppy. Maybe it sounds silly for someone to give a stuffed animal to someone turning 27, but they know how much I miss my little dukster, so they bought me a little, cuddly dog. We named him Jerry(Žerik) which is a common Czech name for a dog. I think one of the most touching things from my Birthday were the Birthday greetings. Instead of singing Happy Birthday, when someone presents you with a gift, they shake your hand as they say many blessings and wishes for the coming year and give you a kiss at the end. I got such a feeling of joy and friendship from this ritual. Like I said, no one let me get homesick for a minute. It was definitely one of the best birthdays ever.
(To make it even better, we had tons of snow, as you can see:)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

what dreams are made of

Last night I had the strangest dream. Many crazy things happened in my dream, but the most significant moment was when I was walking through a kind of market display of stores here in Policka and the Czechs had made new flavors of Dr. Pepper (I’m not intending to make this site only about my obsession with Dr. Pepper, but it’s turning out to be that way). Like we have Cherry Vanilla and Berry in the US, they had made Beer and Wine flavored Dr. Pepper. I was asking the sales clerk if the Dr. Pepper was still nonalcoholic just before I woke up, but before that point this new enigma made me take in my surroundings. I realized that the store offering it was a Burger King and the line of market stands were all chains moved into Policka(the market stands were more like open stores than the small shops we have in real life). I think this comes from my deep dark concern for our downtown, because TESCO came to the outskirts. TESCO is the Walmart of CZ, but a bit trendier like a Target. Maybe this is all I need to say for those of us who grew up in small cities like Ponca, where the wonderful small downtown shops died when the Walmart Superstore came to town. Our TESCO is mainly a supermarket plus, but it has a bakery, a paper section, and a parking lot. If you’ve been to any small European city, maybe you understand about the difficulty in parking downtown, or the importance of the bakery and the paper store. I love my paper store and the many bakeries. I would be sad to see them go. Anna reassures me that they will still be here while I’m living here, but I still see the sadness along with the greatness of the new “advantages” of a greater economy that are coming to even the small cities in this country. Well, I guess I shouldn’t over think this too much, a better variety of possibilities is one of the treasures of a free country as opposed to years in communism with only a few choices in life. Hmm…but I guess the real question in all of this should have been, so would a beer flavored Dr. Pepper really contain alcohol?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dr Pepper in Policka

It’s a fact. I found 2 Liter bottles of Dr. Pepper in my favorite grocery store, which is less than half a mile from my new flat. I took a picture of the bottle next to a bottle of my favorite Policka beer, just to prove that I really have it here. I’m really enjoying myself here in Policka for the second time. Most of the reason I decided to return was that we had done so much hard work starting this program, I hated to see it end after one year when there was an option of continuing. I felt like last year was this huge uphill journey, and it seemed ridiculous to just fly home when we reached the top instead of continuing over the downhill slope. I’ve been relieved to discover that so far it has felt downhill, for the most part. I can speak Czech more easily, I have many friends, and I have many resources for ideas for the classes. Last year my office was in my bedroom. This year I have two different spaces for living and working and both spaces give me space while keeping me connected to other people. So, a little more detail…
My new flat is the third floor of a house just off the square of Policka, the couple that owns the house have two daughters that both have families with children who come to the English camp. One daughter’s family lives on the first floor, the couple lives on the second floor, and the other daughter’s family lived on the third floor. And this second daughter and her family are living in London, because she and her husband have jobs there. So, I’m living in the main room of their flat(with kitchen, living space, and bedroom much bigger than the average studio apartment), plus the bathroom and toilet down the hall. I have one very large cabinet for my clothes and a walk in pantry for food and other things. I think I finally feel like I have good ways to organize things in my apartment. I’d post pictures, but I don’t feel like it’s appropriate since it’s not really my flat.
This week I’ve been looking at desks and chairs for my “office” which will be in a corner of the Presbyterna, the room they use for session meetings, bible studies, and other serious things as opposed to the upstairs Sunday school room where we have all sorts of silliness and socializing. We’re remodeling the room right now, so we have new floors and this amazingly awesome new case built into the wall. This room used to look so old and not so nice, if I only had a picture of what the old mix match of book cases and cabinets looked like before, you would understand how proud we are of this beautiful bookcase with very sturdy locks for important things. Maybe there is a picture, but I wouldn’t post it on the internet. I am happy to post a picture of the new case as well as a picture of my temporary desk. I’m happy to have my two places to separate my home from my work.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Are we the product of our culture or vise versa?

While in CZ I tried to soak up as much of their culture as I could, just to get the full experience, be accepted, and try to see things from their perspective. Along the way, I became accustomed to their way of eating, drinking, walking, and talking. I decided that logically I would like to choose to keep some of their habits while living in the US. So (you know me) before I left I made a list of all of the habits that I wanted to keep. I wanted to keep my largest meal at the noon time and only eat a light meal in the morning and in the evening, with snacks in between. I wanted to limit how many sodas I would drink and find some way to walk or exercise when I could. Finally I wanted to make an effort at recycling and encourage my family to do so.

Well, I’ve just been in Oklahoma for two weeks, and I think I’ve gained at least 5lbs if not 10 and completely failed at trying to sustain the healthy habits that I kept in CZ. People would ask me for dinner and either fix a large meal for me or expect me to order a large meal at a restaurant. When I would eat with other people for lunch, they would eat a light sandwich or something, and I felt kind of like a pig with my large meal. Breakfast was almost a complete failure, because I was eating the preservative filled bread topped with (delicious) cheddar cheese. Even though I realized how unhealthy the cheddar cheese was, I’ve just missed it so much and I can’t get enough of it. I think eating a grilled cheese sandwich is definitely worth the walk required to burn it back off.

As far as recycling is concerned, I’m daily shocked at how much waste we create in airports, fast food, and just around the house. In Ponca City we don’t have a recycling center, and I was making a bag to take to Stillwater, but we didn’t make it there before I left and I’m a little afraid the bag of cans and bottles won’t be there when I get back in another two weeks. In the fast food restaurants like Mc Donalds and KFC in Europe, they take your trash from the trays and recycle the parts that they can. They offer fewer napkins, too. How many napkins do we truly need? How much paper do we waste in unused napkins? And don’t get me started on airlines and airports. To be respectful I don’t know for sure that they don’t separate out all of those plastic cups, and some airports do have places where you can recycle your newspapers. But, it sure seems like there are several thousand small plastic cups thrown in the garbage each day along with all of the waste from the fast food places in the airports. So, what’s a girl to do, when the world around her is just saying, “We don’t really care how much trash we make. And even when we do feel regret, there’s nowhere to recycle our waste,” and they aren’t making it up for the most part.

I think I could keep going on about the obstacles I’ve met when trying to drink fewer sodas and yet fulfill my cravings for Cherry Vanilla DP or the difficulty I had finding a way to exercise in Ponca when the pool is closed and the pavement is so smooth and flat and my dog is getting to old to walk very far, but I think you see where I’m going with this. How much of our culture just encourages us to keep doing the unhealthy things that fill our day? Eating in restaurants and getting calorie loaded coffee serve as important parts of our social habits. Sure you can ask a friend to Dinner and just order soup or a small salad, but it’s strange. You can park at one store and then walk to the next one, even when it’s a good 5, 10, or 15 min walk away, but you get strange looks and someone might try to tell you it’s not safe or it’s so much faster to just drive. Some states really crack down on recycling, but when will we recognize the problems we face as a nation. How did we end up here?