A Hopefully Entertaining Hodgepodge…

So it’s been an unusual long while since I wrote a blog entry. Not exactly sure why but I have a few thoughts and explanations. Firstly, I took on a GIGANTIC topic last time and while I’m glad for the comments and conversation it started I realize I need to be wise in my choice of what to write about. Secondly, while I always have a lots of thoughts in my head at all times it’s important that I don’t spew out all of them all the time. That would probably offend people a lot plus make my blog unbearably long. When I write an entry I really strive to make it something worth reading, pondering and talking about. And sometimes just to laugh or giggle a bit. Fortunately I’m a Christian and overseas and this creates lots of topics and ideas. So with that in mind here are a few thoughts about life in the Czech Republic.

  • Being overseas without a TV has made Youtube and similar sites a godsend. I can access newspapers, sports events, not to mention my friends via the glorious World Wide Web. Easily abused? Of course. Incredible thing I can’t imagine people overseas did without only a few years ago? That too. (Hulu and NBC’s Olympics coverage are notable exceptions to the internet’s awesomeness. Apparently these sites think Americans don’t live abroad. Lame.)
  • Pleses (Graduation Balls) are really sweet versions of prom. Prom was a lame extension of the popularity gauntlet that is High School. A ples is a community extravaganza/dance/graduation ceremony that anyone young and old can attend. I love its fun and egalitarianism.  I have one more ples to attend this month. I expect it to be epic.
  • My town has a pretty similar winter to New England so no big deal. That’s all I have to say about that.
  • I hate when I spell a word so wrong that the spell-check, i.e. the machine that is supposed to detect and fix mistakes, has no suggestions. A real downer for the self-esteem.
  • Fun fact: Beer is cheaper than water here and IDs are NEVER checked. Ah cultural differences.
  • Czech houses generally look profoundly ordinary on the outside and are CRAZY nice on the inside. I know because I went in one yesterday for lunch. It was fantastic.

That’s enough for now, hopefully I’ll have something a bit more substantive next time. Until then, peace.

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Clarity versus Calling

Christians often use language that I just don’t get. As a Christian myself this can become bothersome. The two things that generally confuse me the most are “God has called me somewhere!” and “God spoke to me so I know it’s what I need to do!”

It’s hard to express how far from my own personal experience these two phrases go. Since I graduated from college I have been overseas in two different countries for essentially Christian missions work. Was I supposed to go to South Africa? Yes. Should I be in the Czech Republic now? Surely. Did God call or speak to me directly in either case? Not so much.

First let me say I deeply respect those who genuinely feel and believe that God has called them and/or speaks to them. At times I envy their experiences and belief. It just hasn’t happened to me. I often find exceptions that make me wonder. People get all excited to go someplace, “I have my calling!” and then it completely flames out, sometimes really fast. Did God really call this person or was it just misplaced excitement? When I press people on what it was like for God to “speak” to them in the past they eventually say something like “Well, it wasn’t an audible voice, I just knew he had.” Huh? Since when do things speak in a non-audible way? You have to completely redefine the word “speak” to use it in this context. It seems evident to me that many times (but not always) Christians are looking for some divine horoscope that will just tell them exactly what they are supposed to do. A nice idea, but why do we need an astrology couched in religious language when we have the Bible and Prayer?

So why am I talking about this now? It’s time to come to a decision here about whether to stay another year in the Czech Republic or return to the states. I can say definitively that God has not called me or spoke to me about staying or going but yet I feel clear on what I need to decide. How can this be? To sum up, I have clarity.

I’ve looked at both options, I’ve weighed different possibilities, I’ve prayed about things, and it just seems very clear what I need to do.  I still have about 10 days to make the decision so I won’t express it here but I feel thankful for the clarity I have and that I feel God has (in some “spiritual, intangible, I’m not really sure how to explain” way) given me. I have an idea of what my destination will be but little idea what the path will look like. I hope I can stay open to any curves God might place in my path. I’m excited to continue walking, growing, and progressing. Not because God has shown me everything that will happen, but because he is here right next to me, experiencing it and helping me as I go.

It’s Ples Season!

It’s been a bit since my last entry but it’s amazing how fast time can go during the week once you start teaching all your classes. Today I wanted to share with you a rather unique but exciting part of Czech culture,that as a teacher here I am getting to experience.

The cold and dead of winter is Ples season here in the Czech Republic. What is a Ples? The literal translation is a “Graduation Ball” and the closest American equivalent is a prom, however there are big differences. Graduating from Gymnazium (high school) here is a big deal and you you have to pass a very difficult exam in the spring to do so. But a few months before that, every graduating class has a Ples. The graduating students wear fancy ball gowns and the men wear suits. Family, teachers, friends and classmates are all invited and come as well. A Ples evening includes lots of dance numbers from students and outside groups. A band plays most of the evening and everyone who wants to can dance.

The centerpiece ceremony of the evening is about halfway through the night. The graduating students line up and are called by name up to the stage. As they walk up they get pelted with Czech coins.  It is pretty awesome as tons of coins get thrown at these students. It’s a miracle no one gets hurt but it’s real fun to watch. After the ceremony these coins get collected and it helps pay for the Ples. Once on stage they are presented with a sash saying “graduate” (in Czech) and a flower. After this there is a teacher-student dance (I got to dance with a student) and a student-parent dance.

To cap the evening every Ples has a “midnight surprise.” Generally organized by the graduating class it is a fun or silly presentation or dance of some kind. At Friday’s the class dressed up in Hawaiian garb (boys in coconut bikinis of course) and danced to a great medley of dance music.

I have been to three Ples’ so far with potentially two more to go (classes work differently here, there are a lot more than one per school). It has been lots of fun to see teachers and students all dressed up and having fun outside school. Being able to experience something like this as an English teacher and a foreigner has been very interesting but also lots of fun. I look forward to my other Ples’ in the coming weeks!