Sunday, August 30, 2009

Life Update... finally, huh?

My mama recently sent me a rather expensive gift via Express mail.... a Tiffany Charm bracelet that I had to pay almost a thousand koruna in order to retrieve from the Ceska Posta. It was worth every koruna because although I knew it was coming, she surprised me by having it engraved with "I will go..." words from a song I learned in Mexico with the youth group... words to live by... words that resonate as the beat of my heart. My mama is the most thoughtful ever!

This building is engraved with gold Hebrew and is located in one of Prauge's Jewish neighborhoods. It is one of the most beautiful buildings sent in the middle of a boring street. I discovered this beauty while touring Marsha and Carol around this weekend. Marsha is the art studio teacher at Helen Gordon in Portland where I used to work. She and her sister, Carol, were on a European adventure and stopped in Prauge for the weekend. It was so lovely to see someone from home. We took in the Museum of Decorative Arts, toured various areas of the city, ate at Cantina (my new favorite Mexican restaurant!!), and watched pay per view in their hotel with a couple bottles of wine and french pastries. It was a relaxing and fun weekend.
This is the dancing building, also known as the Fred and Ginger building. It is Prauge's most modern building. When the wind is strong and your body moves side to side it seems as if the buildings really are dancing! This is the first time I have seen the dancing building up close since I moved here. Truly stunning!
On Friday, some of us newcomers were sent on a little day trip to Berlin for our visa paperwork. It was quite the adventure because Berlin is HUGE. We made our appointment (two house late, oops) but they still issued the stamps and sent us on our way. After a lovely meal of Chines food (which was actually quite good) we drove around the city. It was amazing to see part of the Berlin wall that still stands today. Scott, a fellow co-worker at ISP, was kind enough to tour us around the city. It was phenomenal to hear all the knowledge he has about the history in Berlin. I am excited to take a weekend adventure there again and see some of the museums. The above picture is a bit of pop culture.... The Hotel Adlon is where Michael Jackson was photographed hanging his baby off the balcony. I though it was worth a photo...

Last week was a doozy... I started a full week with children and parents settling into the classroom for 2 1/2 hours a day... but it was exhausting! This week I am looking forward to having the children in the classroom from 8-12. The rest of the afternoon is spent working with my aides and prepping the classroom. I still have many meetings in the afternoons. One thing I am really looking forward to this school year is the library that is located in the school. I no longer have to go to the public library to check out books on my own card for the classroom, run up late fees, lose books etc... no no, instead I can check them out in our school library which has a children's section that is exceptional! AND, when I change units in the classroom, all I have to do is email the librarian and she will pull a stack of books from the shelves for me to look at and check out! Amazing! The weather is changing from Summer to Autumn- the skies are orangy/purple at night and the air is cooler and cooler each week. It is beautiful. Life is still good in Prauge. Have a good week and hopefully my internet will be fully functional this week so I can blog more often!! -- Nikki

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A weekend in Prauge...

This weekend I did two very different things, I explored the city with Ana and put together some of my IKEA furniture. Here is a brief visual tour for you: the photo above was taken at Staromestka Square in Stare Mesto. Ana and Carrie live near there on Valentinska st. Ana and I walked all around this part of the city in order to get more acquainted with their neighborhood!

Later that evening, (after another long metro ride to IKEA for the last of my "settling" in purchases) Ana and I met up with Carrie and Ana's friend Ahmed for dinner and a stroll through Mala Strana. We decided to walk down the Charles Bridge. This is always a test of my patience as the bridge is a major tourist attraction AND under construction so it is crowded and often annoying when people stop in the middle of the small pathway to take a picture. Darn tourists! he he he But this photo above is of a curcifixion, and despite an atheistic society, this fixture on the Charles Bridge is a sheer reminder to me of the love that I have been given and the reason I am here in Prauge.. to share that love.
The structures in Prauge are absolutly incredible. I have been taking many photos of beautiful buildings which I plan to devlop and turn into postcards, and a few I might have blown up into poster size images. They would be stunning on my apartment walls.
Then there was the IKEA furniture. Oh my! my wrist and forearm never hurt so much in my life after putting together only two of five things I purchased at IKEA. They may deliver for cheap, but assembly is not cheap, so I opted to take on the building feat by myself! So far, I have built a short, three drawer dresser for my bedroom and a bookshelf for my living room, shown below!

The best part of my weekend was Sunday evening. Carrie and I went to Prauge Christian Fellowship, a church in Karlovo Namesti (square) located about a 10 minute tram ride from Carrie's apartment. She visited last week and from her explaination of the sermon, worship, and the general atmosphere it sounded like this might be a great place for my to visit. It is a relatively small church, with a community of people ranging in numbers from 40-80 depending on the time of year. It is very international in the sense that the people are from all over the world and gather here to hear english-speaking sermons/worship. After finding out seats, we were immersed in a time of worship that filled my spirit in a way that I have needed for some time. It was great... no it was like home. The general pastor and his wife are super relaxed and very inclusive of the entire community working together to make the church flow as a collaborative body of Chirst. It was very refreshing. After the service, people are invited to meet at the local pizza place for conversation and getting to know each other. Carrie and I were introduced to two women, Ariah and Teresa, whom are both close to our age. Tersea leads a home group during the week. We went to the pizza joint and had a lovely time exhanging stories and getting to know them. We were joined off and on by other church goers who would stop by the table and engage in quick "get to know you" type conversatons. We were also joined by a couple from England, who have been travelling through Europe. They were muscians/teachers and also christians. They were just visiting the one Sunday as they were just passing through, but they were lovely and we had great conversation that turned into email exchanging and "let's stay in touch". This is the essence of an international church. it is made up of a body of regular, international living people and weekly/mnthly visitors of those traveling but whom want to be in church on Sunday. I really feel that Prauge fellowship will be my home church, and I plan to get involved with a home group and eventually, I would like to help with worship. Regardless of my involvment, the Lord has blessed me once again by hearing my prayers and providing for my needs.
To close this blog, let me say that I never cease to be amazed at the opportunites created and expereinced with International travel/living. I have met so many wonderful people who are living or visiting Prauge for all kinds of reasons.. and each has begun to shed light on the opportunities the Lord has for me in Prague. I am happy to say that I am adjusting well, loving life, and as each day goes by, I really feel like I have found a home in Prauge... for now, I know I am where I am supposed to be, but I am still open to the various paths my future might hold.
I miss you all -- all my love-- Nikki

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fireworks and food!

Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I heard loud booming noises coming from somewhere in the city. Obviously, it was fireworks but I didnt see anything outside my main floor windows. I realized that the sounds were coming from the back of the building so I ran upstairs and heard both loud fireworks and people cheering. So, I stood there on my bedroom terrace and watched the fireworks coming from some big event in Dejvice.
What a special thing to stand in my pjs and watch this spectacular show. I love it! The following is a 48 second video of the show... bear with the shifting camera.. not sure what I was doing...

Neat, huh? Nothing unlike fireworks in Portland, but fun that I was watching from my own apartment. This evening, I met Carrie, Ana and her friend in Stare Mestro for dinner at Bohemian Bagel. It is more americanized food which tasted soooooo good tonight. I have not yet filled my fridge with enough food to cook. I basically eat bread with meat and cheese and a piece of fruit in the morning or granola... and yes, I was able to buy soymilk here. I usually eat at the school cafeteria for lunch because it is inexpensive, tasty, and there is always a hot and cold choice. So far I have tried: pizza, pasta with red pepper sauce, spaghetti, swedish meatballs and rice (not my favorite...), and roast chicken with potatoes (one I really liked). The catering company that took over the cafeteria this year is new and more gourmet tasty. In the evenings, if I don't meet my friends for dinner and/or beers I usually fix a salad. So far, that is my eating habits. I have tried Czech Goulash which is fabulous... and Czech wine will grow on me. At first it appears flat or dull but after a few tastes you cane taste the flavor... it really needs time to settle. Apparently, this is the time of season for great wine tasting in Vinohrady... yes mom, I will make my way down there in September to taste and take pictures for you!
This blog isnt gonna be too long because I have three detailed emails to address and respond to for school, children's files to read, and I am already so tired my eyes are heavy. Today was full of meetings, meetings, meetings at school... and meeting the entire faculty- hugely overwhelming! I love you all. --Nikki

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lessons I learned in Czech Culture...

Prauge has an incredible sky... this afternoon, while waiting for the bus, my friend Carrie pointed out the rays of light coming down from the clouds. What a beautiful reminder this was of creation... and the majestic and glorious God whom created it.
Life in Prague is nothing short of interesting. I have learned many new things, eaten many new things, and have come to dislike some things too.
Here is what I learned in Czech Culture class today:
1. Czech's are really quiet people... in fact the bus ride can be SILENT
2. people avoid conflict
3. only really old people truly know what communism was and the real effect to society,
culture, and economics
4. it is prohibited and frowned upon to be loud in your apartment after 10pm because many Czechs start their work day between 6-8am
5. it is custom to toast a "cheers" before the first drink while keeping eye contact- this is very important as well as wishing each person a "good" or "happy" meal before beginning to eat
6. don't wear shoes into a Czech's house
7. never show up early to a dinner party! WOW!
The coolest thing I learned was that Czech zoologists were the first to breed Giraffes in captivity and the Czech Zoo is ranked No. 7 in the world!
Now, what have I learned on my own:
1. Czech beer really is good.
2. Food shopping is CRAZY... the Billa is packed with people ALL THE TIME, everything is, of course in Czech and you pretty much just buy things that look like things you ate in the states... my fridge happens to have turkey meat, bread, franks, ketchup, mustard, margarine, eggs, bottled water, soy milk, lettuce, and a carrot. Luckily, I ran into our school business manager in the market who informed me that you weigh your fruits and veggies on the spot and put tags on them for the checker to scan-- good thing he told me that so I wasn't the one who held up the line while the checker had to weigh all my veggies! sheesh!
3. IKEA is also crazy. People buzz around there like bees in a hive. It will be too soon that I have to endure the IKEA again. But I do think I accidentally flirted with some of the hired help. THe table and chairs that I was going to purchase was too heavy for me to lift so I went to the help kiosk to see if anyone spoke English. This younger, handsome gentleman said he did and came to help me lift the box onto the cart. I thanked him and said I might need to find him again and he said he would like that... oops!
4. PDA, as in Public Display of Affection, surrounds every street corner, metro escalator, bridge crossing, park bench... At first I thought it was just in my head, but on a walk through Mala Strana two nights ago, Carrie and Ana and I all agreed that this city is apparently in love- or at least lust!

Today, I admitted for the first time that I am overwhelmed. Not in the sense that I am emotional or regret my decision to be here, rather there is so much physical work to be done in my classroom, curriculum to plan, adjustment to a new work environment, learning simple Czech words, and to be able to perform a wide variety of first time job tasks.. and all of the preliminary work will wrap up in just one short week! Today during the debrief session, I shared that although I had finally slept through the night (a full 7 hours is a start...) and was feeling more alert then the past few days, I was also beginning to feel some stress at all the new things I had to learn for my job. This is my biggest concern right now. Please pray for me. I need strength and confidence to stand on the knowledge I have to do my job well but also to be flexible and able to learn new things while adapting to a new school environment. Much love to you all...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Just a few photos....

I am less of a tourist with my official Czech transportation pass!
Nikki, Ana, and Carrie exploring Prague 1!
My current living quarters... Hotel Beranek.
Prague Castle!
Prague Castle and the Vltava River.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hello Prague.. I'm here!

Dobry Den, (hello)
Well, I made it... some 22 hours and one temporarily lost bag, but I have arrived. Last night, was a whirlwind of events. Cindy, the elementary principal, picked me up at the hotel. I was very late meeting her because the airlines misplaced one of my 4 duffel bags- the one with the majority of my shoes and winter clothing, sweaters, and coats! After waiting a few extra minutes to see if it would come around the conveyer belt, I filed a missing bag claim with Czech airlines- and that wasn't quick since four others were missing their bags too!! Cindy had all the administration looking for me in the airport, at the hotel, calling for the next airline arrival from Amsterdam, etc. She was about five minutes from giving up when I walked out of customs pushing an oversized load on my little roller cart and smiling despite worrying that I might freeze this winter without my coats! All is well now.. the bag arrived this morning.
I am currently living in a hotel room about 5 minutes from the school campus. It is a nice place, very clean and european in nature with a very nice and helpful staff and a yummy breakfast in the morning! Last night, after about an hour to shower and rest, I met many of the new teachers as well as the administrative staff. We had a wonderfully tasty dinner full of meat, cheese, wine, beer and Czech Goulash- which was AMAZING- and lots and lots of conversation. By 10pm Czech time, I had to leave the party and go to sleep because I was so exhausted from traveling.
This morning, I ate breakfast with ISP's new high school counselor and her husband, who relocated from Taipei, Tawain (interestingly, they came from the same school that contacted me for a first grade position in early in February.) They are both very sweet people who love to travel and have many stories from their many visited places.
I have made two friends already! Ana, is the new middle school Spanish teacher. She was born and raised in Bilbao, Spain (which is where my brother's partner, Maria is from...) Ana reminds me a lot of Maria- lively, entertaining and lots of fun to be with. She comes to ISP from teaching in Moscow. Carrie is the new teacher 9th/10th English and History teacher. She is originally from Iowa but has come to ISP from Jakarta, Indonesia where she taught at the International school for her first time the last two years. She is also interested in finding ministry opportunities in Prague... so that is exciting.
Today the three of us set out to explore the city together. Our first stop was the building which Ana will live in. There was an apartment for rent there which Carrie viewed and ended up renting! Both of them have beautiful high ceilings and tile floors... very interesting apartment layouts! They will be only three short stops on the Metro from my apartment... but Ana has already invited me to stay in her spare bedroom when we all hang out on weekends.
Here is the brief list of my accomplishments today:
1. Purchased Czech cell phone
2. Purchased Transportation pass
3. Set up Czech/Euro bank accounts
4. Escorted Carrie to sign the lease of her apartment
5. Viewed Ana's apartment
6. Drank Czech beer and explored Stare Maesto with Ana

That is all for now. Tomorrow I get to tour the school and have dinner with the administration again. To end this blog let me tell you that I am praising the Lord for providing me with a spirit that is willing and open to change. I thank the Lord for quickly bringing two friends into my life and for the calm peaceful feelings I have right now. I am sure in the next few weeks I will experience a variety of emotions... but for now, my friends, I do not feel overwhelmed and I am excited to continue exploring and adjusting to this beautiful city!

na shlednaou (good bye) -- Nikki

P.S photos to come!

Monday, August 3, 2009

2 days until takeoff

"I wish I could bring you along on this journey, but I've got a place in my heart for you all and Lord give me strength..."

These are the words to a song that has been playing in my ipod the past week. In just 2 days, I will be checking 4 large duffel bag and a sending a few boxes by post and leaving Oregon to begin a new life journey in Prague. Wow! It is really, and finally happening. A dear friend recently relocated to Chile and she said to me in a recent Facebook post that, "emotions, some of which you have never experienced before, will come in waves." I expect this to be true. I have yet to feel the entire weight of my decision to move half way across the world- away from my friends, my family and familiar places. I expect to feel the emotions as I settle into my new home- alone for the first time. But let me tell you that the butterflies I feel in my stomach are not like those you get the first time you make a speech in front of many people, rather they are like the butterflies you get anticipating the first date with a boy you have had a crush on... the mysterious, giddy, anxious, where-is-this-gonna-lead butterflies! But I will miss you all...

"And though it's hard to say goodbye, we hear the call and respond... through turns and forks in the road there's a path that brought us all... with the Lord our bond is strong- strong enough to keep us moving on."