Monday, February 11, 2008

mam rada slovensko!... i love slovakia :)

i spent a weekend in slovakia - on a rare weekend off - with a friend of mine, martina stasova, who i got to know on two previous athletes in action trips. martina and i bonded over hockey and the rest is history.

i had an interesting journey to kysak, slovakia, over a 10 hour time period on the train. i've taken the train before - on a cross canada trek to northern quebec in the summer of 2005 to study french - i don't think that trip quite prepared me for this one!

after about 2 hours of journeying alone, i was joined by an older man and a younger guy. the older guy was pumped for life and definitely wanted to talk. unfortunately, when i told him in czech that i didn't really understand much czech, his vigor for conversation did not die down. he prattled on and i tried to pick up what i could. eventually, i just apologized and said i just couldn't understand, and picked up a book. the younger guy looked like a bit of a vagabond. or maybe he just smelled like what i'd imagine one might smell like. either way, an interesting combo. thankfully, by 3am mr. talkative had peaced out and the vagabond soon after. around 5am, people started to board the train, presumably for work. by about 7, my compartment was packed with 8 people squished onto our small bench. when my stop finally arrived at kysak where martina was to pick me up, i was half asleep trying to gather all my bags, including my hockey stick, to rush off the train before it took off again. i only wish i could have watched myself - it would have been extremely funny! obviously, i didn't think it was at the time.

the weekend was a ton of fun with highlights being: attending martina's practice on friday night (with gear - minus my skates - almost entirely donated by teammates not in attendance (i don't think they knew about it!)), going for pizza with some of martina's teammates along with her christian friends (i shared some of my testimony and got to ask her friends a bunch of questions about life in slovakia and the spiritual culture there - totally interesting to hear their points of view), celebrating with martina's family as her uncle celebrated his 50th birthday (i kid you not, the party started at 1pm and went until 4am - luckily i peaced out at 12), ate quite a few delicious slovak meals and was downright spoiled my martina, her sister, mom and dad.

it was a precious weekend. it's amazing to see how the lord brought martina and i together in friendship and continued that as i've come back to prague repeatedly. martina has been an encouragement to me and a prayer warrior. we're trying to plan an AIA hockey camp in slovakia for august. there's a definite need for it and i don't think something like it has ever really been held there for women.

i had the strangest ride home from slovakia. again, a night train, but this time with a bed. and 3 men - who stripped down to their undershirts and boxers and snored the night away. probably one of the strangest experiences of my life and one i'll never forget (and don't really want to repeat either). i took a moment to gaze down from the topmost bunk and marvel at how this would never have happened in canada.