Thursday, September 29, 2005

a clean, well-lit place

Here's the latest edition of the newsletter I email out periodically to friends and supporters back home. For those of you who crave such accuracy, I actually live on the 12th floor...Europeans push floor numbers up one by including a "ground floor" in every building.


A Clean, Well-Lit Place (Notes from the Czech Republic)
September 29, 2005 (29. zari 2005)

Just like I thought it would be, our move to the new apartment was like jumping into a mountain river from a high rock—you swear it’ll never happen, you push down fear because someone’s making you do it, and when it’s all over you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Given that we now live thirteen floors up, maybe jumping is a poor analogy.

But it’s been almost two weeks since Hank and I “took the plunge” into our new place on the other side of town. It wasn’t our idea to move, mind you—my school, which owned the old apartment, decided last April that the building wasn’t useful to them anymore, and a drain on the budget. I preferred to think of it as “home.”

But it seems that ESI’s mantra—“low expectations”—has gone bust again: except for being on the other side of town, a good half-hour walk to school instead of a five-minute one, the new place is clean and bright and cozy. We’re closer to where Beth and Christie live, we’re surrounded by four grocery stores, and in a few months we’ll have an enviable view as below our windows construction begins on the Czech Republic’s newest Tesco, sort of a European version of Wal-Mart.

I’ve posted pictures of our new place on Webshots for those of you brave enough to click this link: http://community.webshots.com/user/aguaviva312

Last week we finished our first month in Sokolov this year, and let me tell you it’s been great to be back. When I arrived here this time last year I was new to the scene, unknown and ignored for the most part. Over the year I met a whole bunch of great people and made some good friends. So coming back this year, no longer a stranger, I was overwhelmed with people happy to see me back. I hadn’t been expecting that.

And even though it’s been a bit lonely at times being the only foreign teacher at ISSTE this year, it’s already apparent that God has a different plan there this year. What that plan is, perhaps future newsletters may tell, but for now I’m carrying on like I learned how last year—the main difference so far being: this time I start the year with a good idea of what I’m doing, instead of stumbling along until March or so before things start clicking.

I’m continuing with a lot of things I started last year, teaching a few of the same classes, meeting for English conversation weekly with a few adult friends, “playing” indoor soccer with some fat Czech men, attending a local church all in Czech. I’m also doing some new things this year, including teaching lots of new classes, serving the Czech ESI team in an administrative role, and eating the strange new foods my new roommate keeps finding at the grocery store.

Things are rolling! And God is proving His faithfulness every day! And it seems that every new day brings a new opportunity to share His light with the people around me. If you’re still praying for us in Sokolov, here are some specific needs we have:

· For continued good health

· For my students—including Cody (who asks questions about God), Petr (who “disturbs” me in my office every week), and Jana (who kicks my butt at chess every time)

· For the new teachers that I’m serving this year as an administrator, that I would love them with Christ’s love

· For Hank and Christie as they adjust to new schools, a new community and a new culture in Sokolov

· For the armor of God in a real spiritual battlefield

· For a foundation of grace in the new ESI community—both on Team Sokolov and among the greater Czech team

This is where I usually say “thanks again for praying.” But I really do mean it. Thanks. God has been answering so many specific prayers over here this month, from silly “little” requests like getting out of pointless meetings to “big” ones like arranging our move into a new home. Trust God in prayer this month and tell people about His faithfulness—it’s an important part of

Making Him Important,

Joel

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

regarding my cesky sen

So "cesky sen" is the locals' take on "Czech dream."

A few years ago, there was a reality tv show in the Czech Republic called Cesky Sen. It documented all kinds of peoples' reactions to the opening of a mammoth hyper-market in downtown Prague called, appropriately: Cesky Sen. It was a marketing blitzkrieg, and people were hyped up. Everyone wanted to be there when the big tarps came down when the meaning of the Czech dream would be revealed.

But it was all a sham. It was some filmmaker's study on marketing and greed, image and discourse. And it was a pretty nifty piece of trickery, if you ask me. Needless to say, the tricked were not amused when the tarps came down over empty scaffolding. A bit too cynical for my tastes, really.

So I guess by this you could read-in that this whole blog is a sham, a skeleton robed in fleshless promises. Probably.

My cesky sen has all the trappings of a sham. It's full of promises and people leading and being led on, shadows and mirrors, and the occasional hard slap of truth. It's faith, you see, and when you go out for something with faith in mind, I can't blame anyone much for saying it's a sham.

But have you tried it?

Now that was a fine bit of philosophy. Let's hope the rest is more genuine.

writing to form

So most good blogs always start with a disclaimer like this:

"So blogs are pretty dumb, I guess, but here goes."

So in the name of good form, I follow suit, and worse: this is in fact my second blog. You can visit my original blog at www.xanga.com/spf50. In order to keep in touch with my "target audience," most of these posts will be "simulcast" in HDTV on xanga. I've started a blogspot account because of disenchantment, mostly. And because I saw you can put pictures up here.

Another way to complicate my life and waste time, if you think about it. But that's my last apology. On with the next post.