Friday, September 28, 2007

it's been a while. i'd like to say it's because it's been a busy week, but really, that would be stretching the truth just a LITTLE. is there anything 'busy' about my life in prague? not so much. but it's still purposeful and i am truly enjoying the slower pace of life. working two days a week is the WAY to go. maybe not realistic. but i am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

on tuesday we said farewell to jason. jay was here for a month, looking for work and a ball team to play with. but things didn't work out and he headed back to america on wednesday. jackie, sara and i spent a lot of time with him as he wasn't working and well, we barely do, so naturally it worked out! he became the brother in the group and a great friend, so it was tough to say farewell to him. we'll miss him tons. i don't think we'll be able to find a replacement as funny. so for the final evening, we went for a dinner at a quaint little place in prague centre. a cozy little date place, actually, not that we were using it for that purpose with 6 of us in tow... but just for future reference! there's even a "private" room couples can reserve. the pic shows the dinner crew on tuesday, from left to right: jason, sara, heather, ernie, me and jackie. dinner was great. most of the crew shared a plate "for two". it included two of: stuffed chicken, sausage, steak, hamburgers and another kind of sausage (which i think everyone steered clear of), not to mention vegetables and potatoes. again, the mystery of the sleek physique over here continues. it was quite a meal! i enjoyed some stuffed chicken and called 'er a night. i don't know how they managed to eat it all - but kudos to them! we ended the evening with some rousing games of CatchPhrase and MUCH laughter, as usual.

we had a really good conversation with our agent on thursday. or i should say, sara did. she did a stellar job of communicating with michal. we made some breakthroughs in our contract negotiations, realizing why things hadn't progressed as they had. apparently, michal didn't think we were using him as our agent and so everything he was doing us was just out of the kindness of his heart - and at his convenience. when we told him that we were paying him and had been expecting him to be our agent, all of a sudden the light went on and things started happening. it's amazing what some clear communication will do! so we are very thankful that that has been cleared up. thank you for your prayers - they have clearly been answered!

in sports news... literally, sara and jackie were on prague TV last night. on monday of last week (a night i'd taken off of practice, to reevaluate whether or not i wanted to be there and to have a little chat with big-g) they were both interviewed. there were a few clips of sara in net and jackie doing drills. they were also both interviewed and we watched them speak as the czech voiceover translated what they both said. it was very cool to know that anyone watching channel 1 news in prague got to see two small-city regina girls! michal taped it for us, so those at home can see it when we return home.

this weekend we play three games. today and sunday are against czech league teams - today's being at our home ice in kralupy, and sunday's being at the home of czech's very own jaromir JAGR in a town called kladno. tomorrow we play in salzburg, austria. we'll be leaving early in the morning, driving 6 hours, playing the game, driving back to prague, and hustling home to bed to get rested up for the game on sunday. i'm really looking forwad to the game against salzburg. they have a few canadian players - two of those being former alberta pandas i played against in the CIS as well as a former teammate of my sister's from Ohio State - erika vanderveer. i've been in touch with erika and i think both teams are looking forward to a challenging game.

it hasn't stopped raining here all week. this morning the skies opened and literally dumped on the city. it was beautiful - and the smell of rain is wonderful. i'm loving it. fall here is stretching out in all its glory. here's a picture of a neighbouring street. the rain had stopped for a bit and the trees, the cobblestone, and the general feel of this scene just had to be captured. wish you could experience it first hand... a picture truly does not do it justice!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

gong show: police, gypsies, cheap czech shots

what a title, hey? there is a logical reason for all three, believe me. it was definitely not a weekend without excitement. it all started on friday morning when i decided i'd drive to work, as we have a car now, instead of taking the metro/bus and arriving at work 30 minutes early after a 1.5 hour commute. work is only a 25 minute drive away. so i headed out on the route i'd planned the evening before, but after an hour of driving, i knew i was lost. i did eventually make it and was only 45 minutes late. thankfully my boss is totally laid back and cool, so it wasn't a big deal. you'd think i'd learn the first time, but that wasn't happening. on the way home i took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in downtown prague. 1PM on a friday, not the best time to be driving the narrow cobblestone streets of prague. somehow i managed to find my way home - again, after 1.5 hours of driving and many horns honked in my direction. it was a great learning experience though, and i wasn't stressed - i kind of enjoyed it actually. it just feels so nice to drive a car again. and in a city this beautiful, in the fall especially, i let myself enjoy it.

the second learning experience of the day came when jacks, sara, jason and i went for a stroll in our neighbourhood and to the 'underground' markets. they're cheap little vendors all in a row, right by the metro stop nearest us. i found this cute green jacket and tried it on, went to the mirror, then showed it to sara, jacks and jason who were a section away from me. this is all underground, connected, there's no distinction that the store ends or anything. to leave the store, you have to take steps up to the outside. as i'm standing there, i feel this SMACK on my back. i was kind of shocked. even a friend in jest wouldn't slap me with that kind of gusto. next thing i hear is a chinese lady screaming at me in czech and i turn to see her hands waving wildly in the air. i could tell from her body language and tone of voice that she thought i was trying to walk away with the jacket. i quickly said sorry and tried to explain to her that i was showing my friends. i followed her to the rack and gave the jacket back. sara had followed right behind me, and after i gave the jacket back we turned to leave. next thing you know, there's a snaggle-toothed gypsy lady latched onto both sara and i in a death grip that would put a cobra to shame. she was screaming at the TOP of her lungs in czech and we tried to explain to her the situation. but she wouldn't even listen to our broken czech. and she wouldn't let go. eventually she did, jason and jackie having returned at this point. i called michal, our agent, and he said to just leave. jason called billy (aia czech leader - he's lived here for 10 years) and billy said the same thing. so we all just turned to leave.

what happened next, i can't quite paint adequately with words. screaming, grabbing, chopping, crying, sara choking, a stretched out sweater, jason almost taking a chinese guy down, and finally us returning to the clothes rack to take a different approach. the older lady (snaggle-tooth), who we think was what they call a gypsy, was telling us to pay 500 czech koruns ($25) but we weren't allowed to take the jacket. it was strictly a punitive fine because they had "caught" me stealing. we weren't going with that, so they called the police. these are just a few of the things running through my head at the time... "we don't know if the police are corrupt".. "i'm going to jail"... "brokedown palace (the movie)"... "my parents are going to freak out"... "i'm going to have a record with interpol"... "is this really happening??" and on and on as i'm sure you can imagine, being the unemotional and 100% rational person that i am. long story somewhat shorter - the police arrived, talked to billy on the phone, let jackie and sara run and get jason and my passports, escorted us out of the market and gave us a ticket for 1000 kc ($50). i'm not quite sure what we paid for. billy advised us it was the simplest way to end the situation. it was that or go to the jail and figure out the story from there (assuming someone at the police station spoke czech). we went with the payment and walked away. whew. what a day.

but there's more. waiting at our flat was our czech friend, bara. she is the daughter of the club's president and it was her birthday. so she was picking us up to take us to a little down called melnik for dinner, a carnival and of course the disco. her dad had rented these cute little cabins for us to stay in, so it was an all night affair. almost the whole hockey team was there, so it was great to hang out with all of them. there were even a few of the players from years past in attendance, and they spoke fluent english having studied in north america. the carnival was fun. i went on the longest tornado ride in the history of the world. i thoroughly enjoy spinny rides, but i'm pretty sure my stomach was in my throat for most of the last 5 minutes of the ride. not even kidding, it was a marathon. we had some czech wine, candy and of course, alcohol. alcohol is so ridiculously cheap in this country. it's cheaper to buy beer on tap, than order a bottle of water. no joke. but of course, all the girls wanted to buy us shots and we had to sometimes hide from them. the first shot over dinner tasted pretty good. by 1AM at the bar, i decided i never want to so much as smell the stuff again. i was no where near intoxicated. not only does it taste disgusting, but it's cheap and therefore you'd probably have to do 10 shots to even get a buzz on. the three of us canadians peaced out at 1:30 to head back for bed. the girls went hard until 6am. they love to party here, that is for sure.

we woke up to have traditional czech food with bara and panchee, one of our teammates. the food was good. i can't say i'd eat it on a regular basis, but it was enjoyable for a once-in-a-while occurence. each plate was meat, usually pork, with either potatoes or dumplings (like potato bread), and with sauce, of course. desert was a crepe with ice cream or some deep friend plums. definitely different.

thanks for staying with me until the end. i realize i still haven't given the low-down on food, but that will come. i also have some reporting to do on work. those kids have taught me all there is to know about this culture!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

finally, a challenge...

that's strictly hockey speaking, of course. goodness knows i've had my fair share of challenges beyond the hockey world since i've been here. but back to the topic at hand.

yesterday we departed for our first EWHL road trip to bratislava to play Slovan. last week we beat them 3-0 (ending a 26 game winning streak for their club). but last night they were a different team and came out with all cylinders firing. they gave us the best game we've played since we've been here. there was less time to think, react and shoot and it was great. i felt more at home in last night's game than the sad blow outs we've had against lesser teams thus far.

at the end of the first i broke the puck out of our zone and went down on a 2-1 with Simon, one of my teammates. we played it out textbook style and put the puck in the net for a beauty of a goal. it was by far one of my favorite moments this year. i loved her (and our whole team's) excitement afterwards. it was about time we had a goal that needed celebrating. we put in another before Slovan replied with 2. our team had not been challenged much in our defensive zone, previous to last night's game, so it was good to have to battle it out and struggle at the same time. it was the first two goals that have been scored on us yet this year. about time, i might say. if that doesn't seem logical, go talk to a competitive person you know... they'll tell you a good battle with some struggle is much more satisfying than an easy win.

with the game at a 2-2 tie, we went into overtime. after an unsuccessful 5 minutes, we went into a shoot out. i was so nervous, feeling the pressure of being the import player, and i knew i was going to shoot. there was an excited energy in the stadium (which could have just been my imagination, considering the 2500 empty seats in the building). but i was excited at the same time and took a moment to enjoy the circumstances. as an import, this isn't my world and the only reality i'm a part of. but for my teammates and coaches, this is it, this is the big time, this is what they've been pouring into for many years. i'm really building this up to be something great, but don't get too excited, i didn't score. jackie shot first, no goal. slovan - no goal. then i shot, no goal - same for slovan. on it went until finally, the 6th shooter from our team put it in and there was much celebration!! the team president, mr. kott, was so pumped he grabbed both jackie and i (as we stood against the boards with the team) and gave us a big hug! it was precious, though we were both perplexed as to why he was hugging us when neither of us scored. i think it had something to do with our play helping the team to get to the point we were, i don't know. i did play the best hockey i've played since i got here, and it was so great to smile, relax and enjoy each moment like i usually do at home.

i'd like to report that sara was in net for the win, but she sat out last night's game so that one of the slovak players could play. sara was stellar as a teammate who was positive, encouraging and just an all-around example of the attitude someone should have when they're thinking of the team, and not themself. dobre sara! ("good job, sara"... in czech) she wasn't alone on the sidelines though, as our new friend, jason from virgina, and our old slovak friend from the aia tour, martina, kept her company. jason's pretty much canadian, now that he's experienced the excitement of a good hockey game. he was right into it! it was great.

on another topic, i realize i haven't given a good update (or any update at all) on some of the, ahem, spectacular food here, so i'll be prepping a good lesson, for next entry, on the ups and downs of the czech food culture. now THAT is something to look forward to...

Monday, September 17, 2007

hungry for truth

i wait quietly before God, for my salvation comes from him. he alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where i will never be shaken.

so many enemies against one man - all of them trying to kill me. to them, i'm just a broken-down wall or a tottering fence. they plan to topple me from my high position. they delight in telling lies about me. they are friendly to my face, but they curse me in their hearts.

i wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. he alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where i will not be shaken. my salvation and my honour come from God alone. he is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.

o my people, trust in him at all times. pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

psalm 62:1-8

Sunday, September 16, 2007

09.15.07 = drama!!

well, yesterday the big event finally happened. we got our car, a navy blue skoda (SHkodaH), four doors, fully loaded (it even has AC, dad!) and i am very thankful to say the least. yesterday was a really tough day, and the timing of finally receiving the vehicle was pretty much a god-send. with the drama that has happened with having too many import players and therefore some unhappy teammates, combined with slavia not coming through with the contract yet, combined with Karel picking apart every defense between the 1st and 2nd period (more on that later), i'd about had enough. i was beginning to wonder why i was sitting there taking this abuse, when i didn't have to be, and slavia wasn't even coming through on their end of the deal... would they ever? but, the Lord definitely knows how much we can handle, because his timing was impeccable, and he's blessed me with two great christian teammates to share this journey with and help me through the times when i feel hopeless or just lost. i was also feeling pretty homesick and i just wanted to see my mom and dad! mr. happy, one of the assistant coaches (his name in czech literally means 'happy', so we call him mr. happy, which is much easier than the czech word for it!) anyways, mr. happy was very kind as well and even though he doesn't speak any english, his concern was evident and i much appreciated the fatherly hug from him! bless his heart. anyways, today is a new day and i'm looking forward to playing another match, even though its in the czech league and we've been annihilating these teams. oh well, it's hockey, so i'm happy.

i've never been coached by a person whose philosophy is personal attacks when he doesn't like how you're playing, so yesterday it was a bit of a shock to have Karel come in and yell at me for my play in the 1st... in front of the whole team, spit flying, cursing left and right. it's definitely not the best way to get a message across or motivate a player. i was ticked.... lets just say if there was a direct bus from the rink to the airport, i might have been on it. thankfully, there wasn't one, so i was forced to stay there and tough it out, which is good for me, i'm sure. i guess that first experience is overwith now, so i'll be better prepared for next time.

all in all, yesterday was a rough day. definitely the worst since i've been here, but i suppose that is normal and there will be more to come.

in contrast of the earlier part of the day, we went for a supper at our new friends' place, phil and shanna. they are a couple from South Carolina doing a church plant here and they are awesome. they had us three hockey girls over, along with 3 of the aia guys for some awesome eats, a good chat and, of course, much laughter. i was so appreciative of the evening.

that's all i'll say about my rollercoaster of a day. have a good one.

Friday, September 14, 2007

we need prayer!

today was a tough day. we thought we were going to get our car, as we had been told yesterday that today was likely the day, but alas, we were left disappointed. we really need wisdom right now because we still do not have our contract signed, we don't have our car, as previously mentioned, nor a washing machine, metro pass, cel phones, or many other things that we've been promised. the biggest thing is the contract. we're debating how to play this out right now, so if you could pray for wisdom for us, that would truly be awesome.

other than that, things are good. today we spent a few hours walking around downtown prague and looking for shoes for jackie. her size 11 feet are a little hard to find shoes for, so we're still on the hunt for the perfect pair. we had practice tonight too and have two games this weekend. tomorrow we play Budapest, Hungary and sunday is a czech league game. i can't remember the name of the team we play, but it'll be another day trip.

in other news, i'm adjusting to the smell of body odour that we cannot escape from as regular frequenters of the metro and public transportation systems. it really baffles me that men and women who smell like this can get married, go to work, feel comfortable in public, not to mention exist in their own skin without wondering what the wonky smell is that's constantly following them. another interesting thing about prague is that there are dogs everywhere. everyone has a dog. they go on the metro and the bus, and they're often not on leashes. but they're very well behaved and stick with their owners. they don't even bark at us when we walk by. the only downside is the constant presense of poo on the sidewalks. though the evening garbage collectors and sidewalk washers seem to take care of those little nasty piles during the nighttime. unfortunately, i was woken this morning by these very people.

if you'd like to learn some czech, read this portion. if not, skip to the next paragraph. the word for the day is "dobry". it means, good, good job, well, etc. it can be used in pretty much every situation, and believe me, we do. there are many different endings for the word, depending on the context in which it is used. naturally, we have no idea how these endings work, so we just say whatever we feel like. the czechs understand. sometimes it's dobre, dobra, dobja... etc. we're trying, we just keep telling ourselves this.

anyways, i'll cut the rambling. thanks for your prayers and i'll write again at the next opportunity. ahoj :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

big win

we had our fifth regular season game tonite. so far we're 5-0. our big win came against Slovan out of Bratislava. it was a 3-0 win, with Sara getting the shut out. the girls were pretty excited after the game. last year Slavia was unable to get a victory over Slovan so tonite was great. we play them again next wednesday, so i'm sure it'll be another battle. it was a much better game than the previous ones we've had. we actually spent some time in our defensive zone and us defense got a better workout.

we still don't have a car, so we've been getting a ride out to Kralupy (50kms... our home ice) with coach Karel. i'm 100% convinced that he doesn't want us to get a vehicle, because as soon as we get into the car after practice or a game, he's asking us what we thought of either practice or training. it's tough to say much beyond 'good', 'bad', 'okay', etc. though our hockey vocabularies are steadily growing. it's evident that Karel is pretty excited to have us here and not only that, to get our input on the game and let us influence things here. it's a pretty cool situation to be in. he wants us to shoot when we enter the offensive zone, as opposed to making 100 passes to produce a 'beautiful' goal. i think he is a unique czech in this.

i'm only working 2 days a week, for 6 hours a day, which is awesome. i'm staying out of the real world as LONG as possible! haha. i'm starting to enjoy it, slowly but surely as i get to know the kids. it's a nursery school for kids aged 3-6. they don't speak much english, but understand some. they're starting to grow on me and i'm becoming less scary to them as a non-Czech speaker. but i'm learning from them too, which is sweet. i'll start to write some of the happenings of the Uhonice Skola for your reading enjoyment... this is a different culture on many levels.

the AIA crew is out of town this weekend for a conference just outside Prague, so it's a bit quieter here. it's been awesome to immediately have a family away from home. such a sweet thing about God's family. love it. we're heading to a bible study tomorrow night with some Americans we met last week, who happen to know the AIA crew. i love "coincidences". God is good and i'm enjoying the peace of knowing that this is where i'm supposed to be.

i'll sign off for now and look forward to talking to ya'll (as my American friends would say) very soon.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

seven weeks later...

i know this is long overdue. in fact, seven weeks overdue, but i am finally getting my blog set up and giving everyone a chance to read about my life in prague... and keep me filled in on what they are up to at home. because i miss you all!

we've just recently moved into our own place in a nice area, close to everything we need like the metro, food, the post office and of course, the Athletes in Action staff and stinters here. we're a two minute walk from Erin and Heather, two of our new AIA friends and everyone else is a short tram ride away.

so i guess to go back in time, i'll start from the beginning and give a "brief" synopsis. at least, i'll try and make it brief!...

our first week in the czech republic was spent in Strakonice, a small city an hour outside Prague. it was kind of scary to walk into the dressing room for the first time, set down our stuff and look around at our teammates, none of which we knew. then coach Karel started out in a 20 minute pre-training camp talk in Czech, none of which we understood. obviously! it was a tough week. we trained on the ice two times a day and off ice once a day. the Czechs sure know how to bag skate their players. i've never before been skated quite like we were that week. it was easy to adjust to the new time as we were so tired after the days that sleep was a welcome friend come bedtime. we learned a bit of czech that first week... fork, knife, spoon, etc... thank you and please, the proper basics. it was fun and we started to get to know our teammates a little. as the week went on we realized that the slovak girl sitting beside us in the dressing room understands English completely. haha. probably a good thing to know. a few others surfaced as knowing a bit of English, but no one is fluent enough to understand us when we speak normal English. i experienced first hand czech style coaching. when frustrated with one of the girls, Karel shot a puck at her, then threw his stick at her, next both his gloves were fired at her head! none of them hit her -not sure they were really supposed to, be we all got the message!

btw - our team name is HC Slavia Praha... you may have heard of it before as we are affiliated with the hockey and football (soccer) clubs here as well.

that week moved into week 2, where the AIA Canada team arrived for the International Training camp in Kralupy, Czech Republic. we were joined by the czech team, a team from Bratislava and both the English senior and junior teams. our team was small, which was frustrating at times. we had 5 skaters and two goalies, so were joined by czech girls for each game. but God knew what he was doing and we had great opportunities to get to know girls from all the teams and build new relationships. it was also a great group from Canada and just what I needed after a tough week in Strakonice. the fellowship was awesome.

the past four and a half weeks have consisted of practice once a day, lazing around watching movies, exploring the city, going for supper with friends and hanging out with teammates. it's been a nice, quiet end to the summer.

i'll leave it at that for now and go into more detail on my posts as new things come up. i don't want to lose readership due to being incredibly long winded, which i could easily be if i don't stop now.

hope everyone is well at home. know that i think of you all and miss you incredibly! i wish you could really see what life is like here. i'm well and happy and enjoying the adventure.

chelsa XOXO