Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 8, 2007

The story told: 23 years ago , a young couple in Texas was expecting their first child and neither had parents around to help them. They were alone in this, and some elderly friends of theirs, a couple by the name of Roy and Rhea Leach came to visit. They had known the couple from church. Roy had a brother, Don, and Rhea had a sister, Donna. (The two brothers were married to the two sisters, if you can follow that). Don and Donna had heard that this young couple had no parents to help, so they and their daughter Marilyn went to the hospital to see this new baby girl. The details, I am unsure of, but this older couple decided to “adopt” the younger couple, and this little girl. The young couple were my parents, and I was the new baby.
According to my parents, they went to doctor’s appointments, babysat and did all things that parents do to help with their child with the first new baby. They were always Papa and Grandma Donna and Aunt Marilyn for as long as I can recall. I really do not remember when I found out we weren’t related I just remember being surprised. I think of my grandfather, and I think of a most loving, self-sacrificing man. Probably the most I’ve ever met. Every Christmas, every birthday , my grandparents were there. I went swimming in their pool every summer. Papa was always taking me to the park. I remember him giving me rides in his wheelbarrow, that was my favourite. We went to carnivals, parades, and to the food lion together. I loved going to the food lion with papa, another favourite memory. My grandparents were a constant part of my life. I begged mom to let me spend the night at their house, and I also nagged her on making them my legal guardians. (I was an odd child, in that most children are not concerned about having legal guardians).
I almost never saw papa apart from Grandma Donna. She was his sweetheart, and he her honey. They constantly held hands, and loved until death did them part. They did everything together and everything for each other. My grandparents marriage was a beautiful picture of what a marriage ought to be.
Four years ago, my papa was received at the gates of heaven. I’m not sure what the gates of heaven actually entail, but I know and believe that there is something of the sort because the Bible has written of it. What do I know of these things? Not much outside of what the Bible mentions. Will there be harps? Choirs? Literal mansions as the ones we think of? It is all so mysterious still, but I take comfort in knowing that it is good. It is the best thing we can hope for. To spend an eternity with God, which that alone, tells me it must be good.
Papa’s faith is what inspires me most. I did not really appreciate until after he was gone. Of course, I knew they were Christians and I sat with them in church many Sundays. But later I learned that Papa would pull out his prayer list daily and go through everyone on the list. He sought out service to others, and memorized the written word. He was a spiritual giant in my eyes. I remember papa catching him with his Bible in his lap often. I think of him often, and how seriously he took his faith.
I cannot write much more, as tears still come to my eyes, which do not seem to stop. My mother even wrote a story, (which I will post if I can get her to send it) about us. I recall it involving that food lion maybe? And a little toy rabbit he gave me, which I continued to call “beady eyed bear”. He even got a little bed for it, and cut a cloth blanket out for it. My favourite game was finding the bear. He used hide in their house and I would search up and down for that little animal. However, one day papa hid it so well, he couldn’t even find it. It turned up just a few years ago when my Aunt cleaned out the house. Such sweet memories.
One day, we shall meet again. I look foward to that day. I can reminisce and enjoy the memories which were made in the 19 years we spent together. I smile, and hope in the eternity we will enjoy together in the presence of Jesus. Then, we part no more

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thank you again Sara Groves..

I was about to give up and that's no lie
cardinal landed outside my window
threw his head back and sang a song
so beautiful it made me cry

took me back to a childhood tree
full of birds and dreams

from this one place I can't see very far
in this one moment I'm square in the dark
these are the things I will trust in my heart
you can see something else
something else

I don't know what's making me so afraid
tiny cloud over my head
heavy and grey with a hint of dread
I don't like to feel this way

take me back to a window seat
with clouds beneath my feet

from this one place I can't see very far
in this one moment I'm square in the dark
these are the things I will trust in my heart
you can see something else
something else

From this one place-Sara Groves

Have you got a pet? Or the time...

Slovakian life is busy..

And pardon the title, I am teaching British English, so that's my grammar lesson for the day..

Not to excuse myself. This morning of choas ended with My bosses letting me "relax" this afternoon and tomorrow. I wont' go into details, but my ever understanding roommate took me to Slavo and Martina's office and I told them about my culture shock some, stress, and a few other things and they were very understanding. It's amaazing what happens when your honest about your feeings. I am not always good about that, especially with people I don't know well.

So thanks to their compassion, and Emily's empathy, having "been there" as a newcommer, I am now able to lock away in the computer room, away from students, faculty and just catch up with emails, and this blog. I try to glance at and a quick sweep of facebook mini-feed each day as well as read the emials sent to me, but reponse is hard.

I am still experiencing some culture shock, as much as I hate to admit it. It's incredibly difficult sometimes. yesterday, there was no one to translate the faculty meeting which lasted an over two hours. That wears on you. Granted, I am learning the language, but it does not come overnight. On this blog, I will be honest about missionary life. It's not always pretty. We are not superheroes of the faith by any means. Missoinary life is not perfect, and it can be messy. I've broken several cultural norms unawares, struggle with the language, I get frustrated, and I've had moments where I just long to see someone familar, to be at home with my family, to have coffee with a close friend, someone to laugh at Dwight Shrute with..(Hulu nor Nbc. com works here by the way..) well, you get it right? Sometimes I feel like a child. After spending the last nearly three years of my life in Chicago, America's third largest city, living an independent life, I now feel needy. Needing a translator, needing soemone to assist to the store or on the bus because there are different ways of doing things..

Missionary life requires great sacrifice, as I am learning. However, with it comes great joy. When you finally beging to understand even the smallest of phrases and words, when you can go to a grocery store and converse in their language, when you hear a worship song that you know in your first langauge, when a friendship is made, when a student tells you that English is her favourite's the beginning of what is to come. I am enjoying the Bible study that I'm attending at church. Even thought it's translated, I feel welcomed. Last weekend some of the girls invited me to a cave with them, and I highly enjoyed it. I thank God that I am here. I really do. It takes time, and effort, but I know I am called to be here. Forgive this unsystematic, rather raw read. It's been a long past two days, full of joy and tears for various reasons. Pray as I continue to learn, to lay down and surrender. Thanks for the prayers everyone. You have no idea how precious they are.

Here is the latest email I sent..two weeks ago. Sorry blog world..

Greetings! 9/18/11

I cannot believe I have been here in Slovakia for a little over one month. Time never slows regardless of where in the world one is located. This email will be a longer one, so brace yourself. If you do not read all of it, I will not take offense ;)

Where to begin..

Slovakia is considered to be on the borders of central/Eastern Europe. Slovakia’s capital is Bratislava, and I reside three hours away in Banska Bystrica (Banska Bistritsa). Bystrica is located in the mountains (hills as they call them, but after living in Texas and Chicago, they look like mountains to me). Bystrica is one of the bigger cities, but is still smaller than Dallas or Chicago. They scenery is beautiful, and its nice to look around and see “green”. There is a “British Walmart” called Tesco, and few local grocery stores in regards to food. The western influence has brought in a shopping mall, which contrasts the “Square” which was built long before the mall. The square has many shops, restaurants and is the center of Bystrica. There is a small castle, many cathedrals, a cemetery, and giant clock tower which can be heard a mile and half away, because I hear it at home, a mile and half away. I enjoy taking walks through the square. Sometimes you may find street instrumentalists, tourists, and random festivals. They have already had two that I know of in the past month.
The culture here is an interesting mix. The west has already begun its way in, but the east still holds some influence. Slovakia is a former communist country and it much of that still has a hold on the culture here. The younger generation is not much affected, but anyone usually older than 50 struggles. The government still operates in communist form. Everything requires paperwork, they take their time, they change their minds, and everything has to have specific notarized stamp. (They love their stamps here) Post-communism shines in almost anything. For example most buildings are painted in pastel colours both inside and out (including my office at school, It’s a bright peach). No colors were allowed during communism, so now they want everything to look like Easter. The older ladies all have purple, blue, maroon or pink hair because hair-dying was also not allowed. During communism, everyone was required to lean German or Russian and was expected to speak it. Churches were regulated, and like all communist countries, controlled by their government. Everyone here is grateful to be a free nation, but the communist weight still lingers. Just two years ago, Slovakia joined the European union and switched from the crown to the Euro.
The language spoken here is Slovak, which is similar to Russian and that has proved beneficial to me. They are both members of the family of Slavic languages and I have discovered many similarities. Some words are the exact same, some have different endings and of course some are entirely different. For example “kniga” is Russian for book but “Kinha” is the Slovak word. Thankfully Slovak has a much simpler alphabet which reads phonetically unlike the Cyrillic Alphabet, which took me forever to learn. However, I sometimes do confuse the two languages and I still respond in Russian sometimes, but most of the time they understand me. I love language learning and hope to get a firm grasp on Slovak soon.
Adjusting has been easy in some ways, hard in others. Getting paid in Euros is new, and credit cards are not common here. I have never had this many coins in my pocket before..the Euro is full of coins. This is a very last minute culture, so my type-A personality has had to be flexible with last minute memos, and scheduling changes. Of course language barrier is never easy, and being the “new kid” anywhere is always hard. However, being in Ukraine for a few months has helped, so honestly, some differences do not even occur to me. Living in Chicago for almost three years has also helped. For example, I am used to walking everywhere and bringing bags to sack my groceries. Certain things do not phase me.
The Food here is pretty similar to Ukrainian food, minus the borsch. Lots of bread and potatoes. Many dairy products, and soups. The chocolate of course is excellent and I like the tradition of drinking tea and coffee after a meal. The food isn’t too much of a change for me, but it is a little more expensive and gluten free is a new thing. Celiacs is not common here yet, but its on the rise I suppose. I enjoy the many fruits and vegetables 
Another interesting fact is that there is no separation between church and state here. For example, pastors are paid by the government like anyone else and the school I teach is “Christian” but considered a public state school, also government funded. The country is predominately Catholic, and many of my students come from that background or non-religious families. Most churches here are Catholic, and many of the holidays are Catholic, but I attend what is close to a First Evangelical Free Church, Emily attends a Baptist church, and there is a Lutheran church, seventh day-Adventist and an Apostolic church in the city. There are still many aspects about the culture I have yet to learn, but I still enjoy the learning process 

I work at an Elementary school, with the best ESL program in the city. If you want to look at it, here is the school’s website: *******. I am the youngest faculty member, because most people my age are still in school. The European school system differs from the American. You cannot get a job without a master’s here, and “high school” is very similar to our undergrad system. I am always still amazed at language learning here. These kids not only take English, but are offered Spanish and Russian, and do have to choose one by the 5th grade in addition to continuing English, which is taught from the first grade on, not optional. This is the school’s first year with a 6th grade class, and each year the school adds on a grade until they reach the 8th. I am really enjoying teaching so far. I was intimidated at the thought of teaching 4-6, because for the past 4 years or so I have consistently worked with little guys, but pre-teens seemed scary. However, my students and I have connected pretty well. My kids speak English pretty well. The 4th graders are crazy still, and kids are kids but so far I haven’t had any major issues  . They are at a funny age though, the 4th and 5th graders are still at “we can’t intermix in fear of contracting cooties” and the 6th graders are somewhat like that, but some are discovering their hormones and that maybe cooties don’t exist after all..Honestly, it is somewhat amusing to watch. I have “lunch duty” once a week with the kids and I asked them to teach me some Slovak and I had an entire crowd around me last week. They really are sweet, and I am enjoying getting to know them. I have even spent some time with the little kids, and their English is not quite as good, but they are quite fun. The first graders especially, are still so new to school, and they hold hands and are easily awed. One little boy knows very random words in English which surprises us all, and likes to go around pretending he is a car during the day. He will pause to tell you something in English and the go about attending his “car duties. “ One of my 5th grade students asked me where I was from, and I told him Texas, and he said “Ooo! Sombrero! You have?”.
I currently teach 18 hours a week and will soon add on a faculty ESL class. Many of them have been requesting it and once I get settled into my required teaching hours, I will develop a curriculum for the teachers. In addition to teaching English, I also co-teach four classes with a Slovak teachers, to develop bi-lingual education. I teach Art and a sociology/ethics class. . I did not ask to teach these, as I feel qualified for neither but since I’m co-teaching it shouldn’t be too bad. For 5th and 6th grade,it is interesting, but not too difficult. Honestly, the art class will probably be the biggest challenge, due to my non-artistic abilities. The other class is actually pretty interesting so far but we’ll see how 5th graders handle decision making, problem solving and the outcome of their decisions based on how they choose a solution..they get to grasp ideas such as “individualism” and “utilitarianism” in their second language…as 10-11 year olds. Coming soon we will start working on the winter Musical, but its one step at a time for now.
Being a full time teacher is fun, and I wasn’t sure what to expect coming in, but I am enjoying it. Its hard, but its worth it. I anticipate the upcoming school year and I know challenges will arise (they already have) but I stand back and thank God for calling me to this.


I am adjusting decently here. I like it here, however culture shock is still inevitable and still wearing off. I have had moments where I wish I could run out to coffee with a close friend, but I know deep relationships take time. I miss my family, and wish they could be here with me, but I am beginning to make relationships with the faculty at school as well as people from my church. My roommate Emily has been a huge help also. She is from Texas as well, and has lived in Slovakia for four years now. Many people here have been very kind and helped me as I get settled in to my flat and start school. We have most things we need in our flat, minus an extra bed. I was on the couch until this weekend, and Emily graciously offered to switch with me. I figure until we get another bed we can alternate. Part of missionary life  I am still working on getting my Visa, which has been rather painful. The foreign police here still run with communist mindset. They ask for something, you give it, they its “and now this, and this...” They don’t like to tell you everything upfront. My first work permit was rejected due to the notarized stamp on my diploma not being the correct color stamp, and I had to have another copy sent from the states. They stamp and notarize everything here, and there is much paperwork required. I will spare you the details of that, but I now have my work visa but am waiting on my permission to stay. It should be here within the next 2-3 weeks, but please pray if you think about it! I have until mid-November to get it, otherwise I go to Croatia or Ukraine for a bit then get to come back however, in the middle of the semester I’d rather not.

Ok, if you read this letter, you may now wipe the sweat off your brow..It was long and tedious I’m sure! This will be the only letter with such length, you have my word. I just have so much I wish to tell you all, and I wish I could put everyone on plane and take you out to coffee with me! Please pray for my visa to be completed soon, and that I will continue to adjust and build relationships. There are a few ministry opportunities at my church I am praying about but I am trying to evade the fallacy of jumping in too quickly. I still trying to work out my school schedule, which is different day-to-day and adjust to teaching first. However, I do wish to be involved in church ministry and I am excited about what the Lord is doing right now within the church here. Thank you all for your prayers and support. Please keep me posted on your lives as well!