2009? Where you go…?

So I suppose it’s late enough in the year to write an entry looking back on 2009. It’s been an interesting year and a bit strange too. Over half of it was spent at home or in the states but a good chunk has been in Europe. Rather than just banter on about my life here are some highlights.

January 11th- Ran my first ever full Marathon at Walt Disney World in Florida. Ran 3 hours, 7 minutes and 34 seconds. Qualified for the Boston Marathon in April. It was pretty awesome.

January 16th- Started my job at “Honey Farms” a local convenience store for the next six months. Not really a highlight but it provided some much needed income into my bank account.

April 20th- Ran the second marathon of my life, at Boston. Major life accomplishment, check. Bested my January time by just over a minute 3 hours, 6 minutes, 29 seconds. Pretty awesome.

April 24th-26th- Visited my camp to help with their spring camper weekend. Saw many good friends and relived camp for a few days. It was nice.

May 7th or 8th- Visited Wheaton (my college) to see friends right before they graduated. Saw what my commencement would have been like if it had been sunny as well as many good friends. It was fun.

July 6th- Worked my last shift at Honey Farms!

July 8th-Left Massachusetts after being there 7 months for a year. Head to New Mexico and California.

July 19th- Started training with Teachoverseas in Pasadena.

August 20th- Flew to the Czech Republic to start Teaching.

October 28th-30th- Visit Hungary for the first time. See teacher friends, explore Budapest. It’s fun.

December 22nd- Head to London for my first visit ever. Still there now. It’s cool

So that was my 2009. It was pretty cool. I’m looking forward to 2010 and all it has for me!


Having a taste…

Taste and see that the LORD is good…

I was going to write something else but things happen and so I’m writing the following. Hope you enjoy.

Last night I was online before bed and noticed a Facebook status that said Brittany Murphy had died. At first I wasn’t sure who that was but than it clicked. She was that actress in Clueless, among other movies. I was skeptical for a second but a google news search soon revealed the sad news. Only 32, she is now gone from this earth. While it does not yet appear to be from a drug overdose (far too common amongst celebrities) it is nonetheless a tragic thing to lose someone so young. It got me thinking, as celebrities deaths tend to do, about the temporariness of this life.

When I was 10 or 11, I started getting into sports. Part of this was picking favorite teams among the big American sports. Some were local teams, but in football I picked the Green Bay Packers. Soon I had a Brett Favre jersey, a Packers winter coat and was rejoicing in their Super Bowl win of 1996. Sports was such a big deal back then to me. Music and movies too. They were so awesome and the people who took part in them more so. They weren’t just people; they were famous people. It was a difference.

But here I sit at the end of 2009 and realize how flawed my view of life was as a kid. Life is more complicated than sports, or celebrity. There are more important things than the Super Bowl or the next big movie. Life happens, people die and it doesn’t matter if you were young, beautiful, talented, and wealthy (my condolences to Mrs. Murphy’s family). You can’t take anything with you.

It reminded me of the verse I started this entry with. Life is temporal but God is eternal. He is the only thing truely good in this flawed and broken world. This holiday season I offer this request to you. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Read some Bible verses, listen to that old Christmas Carol again, maybe even check out a Christmas Eve service in your area. I think anyone who gives God an honest chance, a good taste, will not only be satisfied but truly never want for anything else.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May you rejoice in the joy that the Lord has come.

blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.- Psalm 34:8

Retreating, ESI-Style

Note: Educational Services International is TeachOverseas international name. When I say ESI I mean TeachOverseas. Apologies for any confusion.

This is a bit overdue, especially for me, but I wanted to tell you a bit about what I got to do two weeks ago.

Being with an organization like ESI has many benefits, both tangible and intangible. One of the most tangible benefits is the retreats that we have four times during the year. The biggest one just happened the weekend after Thanksgiving. All the ESI teachers from the Central Europe Region meet together for a long weekend to fellowship, worship, eat a giant Thanksgiving meal and reconnect a bit. There were over fifty people total.

It was really great to see teachers I hadn’t seen for a few months, some since training. In fact, some I hadn’t met at all yet since they had not been able to get to training during the summer. It is pretty cool to see all the people God has brought together in this region of this world to teach and to do his work. I had lots of fun. I played in a raucous game of American football one afternoon and went for a short but refreshing run with some teachers the next. Running with other people is a pleasure that I don’t often get to enjoy so it was nice. A very cool thing: I got to sing worship songs in ENGLISH. After 3+ months of Czech worship it was nice to really understand things again.

ESI has provided a great support network for us here overseas. It’s not as close-knit as Thrive was but that would be impossible to replicate in this situation. In any case I am truly thankful I am with this organization and that they “have my back” so to speak while I’m over here.

I think I’m in the Czech Republic…

Some days I wake up, go teach and whatever, come home and nothing much interesting happens. And then some days I have a day like Friday. Let me tell you about it.

Tuesday through Friday I teach in the morning at my Basic School before going to my other school, the Gymnazium (Czech equivalent of a high school), around 10 o’clock. I usually get there between classes, go up to my office and prepare for my lesson. This past friday there was a Floorball tournament at my school. Floorball is like indoor hockey without ice. Every class had its own team. The teachers had a team too. There was a bracket.

About 10 minutes after I sit down, my fellow American English teacher, Sam, walks in decked out in full Floorball goalie gear. Shirt, pants, mask. He is in his 60s. It took me a bit by surprise. He tells me I’m playing next game for the teachers, he thinks I’ll do better than him. I grant I’m a bit more athletic than Sam but floorball is at best a game in America I played as a kid. In any case we head downstairs to the gym. Once there I’m taken to the “locker room” which ended up being the gym teachers office. They have different standards of privacy here. More on that in a bit. I get Sam’s goalie gear on and head upstairs.

Many students (including my own) have gotten out of class and are watching. Many have devil’s horns on. Some are dressed as angels. Some just have Santa hats on. Apparently it’s to celebrate a holiday similiar to Christmas but three weeks before. In any case it was fun to see.

Back to Floorball. Five minutes after arriving I’m in the net to face a team of students. You have no glove and it looked like it was best to stay on knees at all times. In the ten-minute game it’s ok. I face two shots. One is a rocket over my shoulder, the other I catch in my chest. It ends 1-1. I get up pretty happy I haven’t embarrassed myself yet. And then a Czech English teacher I know tells me the game isn’t over yet. The tie has to be broken. I’m the goalie in a penalty shootout.

This is a horrifyingly bad turn of events. I can’t imagine saving a shot, let alone winning. I have never played this. I’m told it’s no big deal but pressure mounts as I settle between the posts. It’s pretty weird. People basically just walk up with the ball before taking the shot. The first I do actually save by having it bounce off my face-mask. No style points but I’m feeling good. I proceed to save no more and we eventually lose. Disappointing but I gave a good account of myself and the Czech teachers shake my hand. Sam and I go back down to change.

Back in the office there’s lots of people. Students outside too. My Czech english teacher and her three-year old are talking with others in the office. I’m not in habit of being in my boxers around females so I wait. Suddenly another teacher walks in, in his boxer briefs. He casually grabs his clothes and proceeds to dress while talking to those of us around. A few minutes later the woman teacher leaves and the gym teacher proceeds to take off his shorts to change. He puts on a shirt and the woman comes back in. They talk for a good 3-4 minutes while he remains pantless. Finally woman and children leave. I put my pants on.

So it was a good day. I did new things. I had some fun. And I was reminded I am in a different country from my own…

A year of blogging…

It is weird to think about but a few days ago I reached the one year anniversary of starting my Czech Republic blog. My South Africa blog was written just over ten months as it spanned my time as an intern there. While eight of the past twelves months have been in the states, this current blog has generally stayed focused on what I am doing now. That is, teaching in the Czech Republic.

I have to say I really enjoy having a blog. I like airing my thoughts. I like processing and refining them by writing them down. I like provoking discussion from people who read it. I like how family, friends and supporters can keep better informed on what I’m doing and thinking about over here. A quick request: I really enjoy when people comment on my blog. Say hey, say you liked it, tell me you disagree. Whatever it is, I will appreciate it and if needed, try to reply in an timely fashion.

To commerate my year anniversary I decided I wanted to change the theme (appearance) of my blog. I had kept the same one all year and while I found it simple and easy to read I decided to look at some new options. As you can see, my new choice is a bit different. Black is its main focus but it also has some nice bursts of bright orange colors. I like that the date and comments are easily seen. I also like that it still seems very readable. In any case what do you think? Too much of a change? Not enough?

So here is to another year of thinking, writing and sharing as I continue this journey of teaching that God has put me on. Be blessed.