Friday, December 08, 2006

Long December

Whenever one has too much or too little to do, one is in danger of becoming paralyzed. Unfortunately, these two states of being have simultaneously descended upon me, causing not paralyzation, but rather, writer's block, or more precisely, "Writer's Neglect." Do you ever go through periods in life when the last thing you want to do is the thing you need to do? I love to write, particularly on this blog, although you wouldn't know it by the meager entries that have been put forth thus far. This is how it normally goes:

Something fantastic, and yes, noteworthy, occurs in my life.

I decide to record it for posterity and for all the world to see on my blog.

I begin to write and my perfectionistic tendencies pull a mental coup, causing several rewrites of the aforementioned blog entry. (In fact, if this makes it to your eyes, I will be thoroughly surprised!).

Finally, mild-mannered Andrew is able to regain control of his faculties and realizes he doesn't have any more time to write, so he heaves a sigh of frustration and hits the red "X" in the upper-right corner of his browser.

But not tonight! It's been a long time since my last blog and MUCH has happened: life-altering, joyous, heartrending things have occurred, and YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT THEM!

And so, after much ado...

On October 26, 2006, I got engaged to the woman of my dreams: the elegant, beautiful, brilliant (and patient!) Elanor Joy Rimmer! Rather than reinventing the wheel to tell you how the engagement went down, I will refer you to her much-more-updated-than-mine blog--> Elanor's Blog

Suffice it to say, it was a wonderful day and SHE SAID YES! In my book, that's all that matters!

Also, a while back two of our teachers went back home to the States. This was a very difficult and trying time with lots of tears, conversations, and reshuffling of duties, but all is well and I think it was for the best. Keep them in your prayers.

Recently I experienced my first Ples. A Ples is the Czech equivalent of Prom, only on a much grander scale. This Ples was for Elanor's school, and it was held in downtown Prague, in the same place where they filmed Swing Kids! Basically it's a big dance, only weeks before the Ples everyone goes to dance lessons so they can all waltz, swing, etc. very well. The other big difference between Ples and Prom is that there was a professional live jazz band, and at various points during the evening the seniors put on different "acts" where they would come out and do choreographed dances. It was spectacular! There was one part where all the people in the class were introduced, and they came out in groups of 5-10 people, usually 1 guy and the rest of them girls, doing some kind of runway model-esque synchronized dance. It was definitely a sight to see, and so much cooler than Prom will EVER be. Elanor and I hope to someday bring the phenomenon of Ples to the States, it is so cool! My school's Ples isn next Friday, and although it will be smaller than Elanor's, it will still be great!

Also, I recently experienced my first out-of-the-US Thanksgiving celebrations. That's right, celebrationS (plural) because I had three of them! The first was two weeks before the big day in a small village south of Ostrava (eastern Czech Republic). We had an American-style thanksgiving in the basement of this large hotel that looked like it was straight out of "The Shining." It was wonderful, plentiful, but didn't quite feel like thanksgiving. The next Thanksgiving occurred on the actual day, and we were in a hotel in Brno, the second largest city in the Republic. It was nice, although I was feeling a bit ill and we all were a bit exhausted. The hotel promised a full American-style thanksgiving, but it was more like cafeteria thanksgiving food in elementary school. Part of the essence of Thanksgiving (in my opinion) is that you come away so full of tryptophan and mashed potatoes that you could sleep for a week! This meal left something to be desired. The 3rd and final Thanksgiving celebration occurred last weekend in Prague at the Gymnazium Nad Aleji. All the Prague-area teachers got together and had a real Thanksgiving, and it felt like home. It was noisy and crowded and the flat smelled like Turkey and wassail. No Thanksgiving would be complete without my mom's crescent rolls, so I asked her for the recipe and made them! They didn't turn out exactly right, but the idea was right, and they tasted good enough.

Then this past Wednesday I went into Prague to see Elanor and we went and got a Christmas tree for her flat. We put some lights on it, and listened to Amy Grant Christmas music while drinkin eggnog and watching episodes of Lost (which I'm positively addicted to now!). I love Christmas!

Now there are only two more weeks left until Christmas break...the year is truly flying by. Last night I practiced my new trombone (I bought a new Schagerl trombone a few weeks ago) with Boris, a physics teacher at my school. He and I are going to play a few Czech Christmas carols as well as a few English carols on the last day of school before the break. I was honored when he asked me to play with him(he's a very talented jazz saxophonist who has played extensively on the Prague jazz scene). It's good to be playing again, I missed it a lot.

Well, I think that's about it. Oh, I went and saw Casino Royale tonight with my friend Honza (Johnny as he likes to be called) and surprisingly enjoyed it! We had a good time, and now I'm at home in my warm flat listening to Benji snore. Tomorrow I will head into Prague for a meeting with Elanor and the wedding planner. Can't wait! I hope and pray that this post finds you well and walking in the light of Christ, serving in whatever situation you find yourself. Be blessed, and continue to pray for the people of the Czech Republic! Ciao.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Have whiteboard marker, will teach...everyone else's classes

So today was the first day on which I was called upon to substitue teach...(dun dun DUUUNNNN!). It was not so bad. I woke up this morning, ready for my long Tuesday (8am to 8pm with about 2 hours of break) and walked up to my first class, only to discover that the room was empty. I seem to have lost my students. Paul, one of the other english teachers, informed me that 4B was in Prague today and that I was substituting. Yay. My first class was okay, I knew some of the students and they were pretty friendly. No sweat, right? I was not sure where I had to go for my second class, so I returned to the teacher's lounge, checked the schedule, and walked up to room 22 where I thought I was supposed to be. I did my introduction and began asking the students their names when Boris, physics teacher and saxophonist extroadinaire, walked in and asked what I was doing. "Teaching," I said, brilliantly, unaware of anything strange. As it turned out, I was in the wrong room, teaching Boris' class. He smiled, and I slowly walked out of the class to roars of laughter...DOH! I eventually found the class I was substituting for and they also had a good laugh at my expense. It was pretty embarrassing, especially when some other teachers approached me and asked me (jokingly of course) if I could teach their classes for them today, but it put me in a relaxed mood, which helped me through my long day. Thank you Lord for the constant reminder that we are nothing without you!

These pictures are of Praha Bubenec Nadrazi...the train station that I go to on Sunday nights when I leave Prague after visiting Elanor. This past Sunday it was extremely cold and also deserted, and I was moody and artistic, so I took some pictures. The last few are of my walk home in the dark streets of Kralupy. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I'm Old!

So much has happened since I last updated! To take you back, go with me to September 30 (two weeks ago). I spent the weekend in Prague visiting with Elanor and relaxing. On Saturday we decided to go on a walk from "The Metronome" where there used to be a statue of Stalin all the way up to Prague castle. It was beautiful, as you can see from the pictures. It was a beautiful autumn day, the perfect mix of sunshine and cool air with leaves changing colors and a steady breeze. We walked around for a long time, eventually ending up at a monastery on Petrin hill and then later to Maly Buddha, a small asian food restaurant with great atmosphere and great food.
The next weekend took me to Bratislava, Slovakia, where we had a CA meeting and got to visit the ESI teachers who live there. The meeting went kind of long (7 hours...yay), but I got a chance to have some great conversations with Barb Kellum, the wife of the most popular ESI teacher in Budapest...the one, the only, Sam Kellum! After the meeting we were all pretty worn out, but wanted to go hang out with the Bratislavians. After a bit of the usual milling around deciding what to do, Vic arrived and offered to take us to the castle, which sounded good to most of us. We started out, then a few people decided to stay and hang out in coffee shops. The group further split when we reached a small alleyway on the way to the bus stop. Someone mentioned that there was a "bobsled" on the big hill in Bratislava, basically a plastic sled with wheels that you go down a concrete drainage ditch in...sounded dangerous and fun, so a group of us decided to go. On the way we caught the wrong bus, but rather than go back and catch the right one, we took another bus that would put us in the general viscinity of where we needed to be and then walked the rest of the way. That's when the fun began. Apparently no one really knew how to get to said bobsled, which led to a LONG hike through the woods with lots of backtracking and getting lost. The best part was when Aaron, our country director, ear adorned with a small flower from our hike, asked random Slovak workers if they knew where the bobsled was...making a sort of shimmy motion with his shoulders and hips. They looked at him, said no they didn't, and walked away quickly. Eventually we did find the way to the bobsled, but an hour too late. It was closed. The top of the hill was decked out with a few cabin-style pubs that didn't have real food, and as all of us were STARVING after our multiple hour hike, we needed some sustenance. We were going to take a bus back to downtown Bratislava, another 30 or so minutes away, but someone suggested we eat at the restaurant at the top of the TV tower that rests at the top of the hill. We were game, so we hiked a short way to the tower and asked if we could get a table. Despite our slovenly appearance after our multiple hour hike, we were able to procure two tables at this amazing restaurant. We sat on white leather couches with candles on the table. We ordered wine and had some amazing food, which tasted so good that we didn't mind the fact that it was extremely expensive. It reminded me of Prom at Reunion Tower 6 years ago, and it was a blast!
Fast forward to yesterday, my 24th birthday! Elanor and I celebrated our birthdays together (since they are only one day apart!) by going into Prague. We started out at Charles Bridge listening to an early jazz ensemble, then had an amazing dinner at Cafe Louvre. Czech wine...yum! After dinner we decided to have dessert at another restaurant, Restaurace U Supa. They had a live band that consisted of string bass, guitar, and violin. It was all very wonderful and romantic, and Elanor and I had a wonderful time. All in all it was a pretty memorable birthday. Thanks to all of you who had the presence of mind to send birthday cards and emails to the Czech made my birthday wonderful!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Music Class

So yesterday was the best (and worst) day yet! Lucka and Kamil invited Zach and I to come and sit in on their music class during 8th and 9th period. I was intrigued, so I went. Their music class consisted of a bunch of them sitting in chairs and singing pop songs with the teacher playing piano, usually someone on guitar and drums, and two microphones for people to sing into. For the first bit they were kind of just milling around, but after about a half hour they started singing some really good songs, the Beatles and whatnot. So then the teacher asked me to come and sing. I had one moment, and I said, ah, what the heck? So I grabbed the mic and sang such hits as Killing me Softly, Wonderwall, and some assorted Beatles. It was a blast! They asked me to play some piano and guitar, but I balked there on account of the fact that I haven't practiced in some time!

The only bad thing about the day was that I had to teach about 9 hours...yuck. My thoat hurt a bit afterwards! But today is a new day, and His mercies are new!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Benji the wonder pup

So I have a bit of time between my classes today, and I thought I'd tell you a bit more about the new third roommate. His name is Benji, he was born in the year of the dog, and he likes long walks around Dvořakovo Gymnázium. He is one of the funniest dogs I've seen! He is pretty quiet whenever he's at home, rarely barking or anything, but if he hears any kind of motorvehicle he starts to howl like there's no tomorrow. He has this funny (and gross) habit of shaking his head like he just jumped out of a swimming pool, which sends any drool that may have collected in his droopy jowls flying in all directions. He does lots of other cool dog stuff too, like laying under your feet when you're lesson planning and rolling all over the floor trying to scratch his back. He is also a great climber! Most of the time when we come into the flat, he is standing on the windowsill between the kitchen and the clothesline room, looking majestic and whatnot. Then he bounds down and jumps up on you to say hello, and if he's in a good mood, will even plays a quick game of tug of war with his leash. Benji likes both of us, but I'm pretty sure he likes Zach more. The evidence to this point is that whenever Zach leaves the apartment, he runs after him and stands at the door, whining and crying like a little puppy. So cute. Benji is also a farter. Zach and I will be chillin' in the crib with Benji on the floor asleep, and out of the blue...Benji drops a bomb. Sometimes silent, sometimes loud, but always deadly. But don't judge him too harshly as he is a dog. And a pretty good one at that. Even though he can't do any tricks or understand "No," "Sit," or "Co dělaš?", he is housetrained and a faithful companion. And so it is with love in my heart that I give Benji two paws up and say Welcome!

mountain climbing

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More 10k pics!

Monday, September 11, 2006

I'm getting better...

Well, I survived my first (long) week of school and now I'm starting week 2. I think I'm in a better place than I was even yesterday...just very culture shocked, tired, fearful, and frustrated. This morning I taught three wonderful ladies at English services and that helped me to relax. I CAN do this! I think the key to all of it is to retain a constant posture of learning, even when I'm the teacher. Humility goes a LONG way in this profession!

This past weekend I headed to Praha once again for many purposes. The main reason was to help Aaron (our country director) and his family get packed up so they could move to Ostrava. They made it safely, and the rest of the weekend I enjoyed Elanor's company. Also, on Sunday I ran the Prague Grand Prix 10K with a time of 56:08...decent for no training! Running (especially marathons) is funny to doesn't do your body any good per se, but people will pay 60 euros every year to punish thier bodies. I don't understand it at all. The reason I do it is because it is a strong hook in my mind of how life is...Running and everyday life are very similar: Some parts are hard, some parts are easy, but any forward movement is good. Slow and steady wins the race...all that. It also is a great way to stay in shape. Today my legs are really sore, but the pain just reminds me of what I was able to accomplish. hmm...there might be something deeper in that!

After the race Elanor was wonderful and gave me a haircut! She was a bit nervous, but I had full confidence in her hair-cutting abilities...and it came out great! So now she has a way to make a little extra money on the side!

God continues to give me grace and joy in this whole process, even when I don't deserve it. Pray for my planning abilities to increase and for the ability to relax and not be so apprehensive!

Last night as I was on the train back to Kralupy I looked out the window and the sky was a wonderul red, white and blue. Just like their flag. Creation is amazing, and God continues to amaze. Be strong in the Lord! Peace!

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