What was once a strange new world has quickly become home in the last 8 months. We still don't understand a few things (such as the post office, as the picture captures below), but this city is our city now, and the more we come to understand it the more we realize how much more we have to learn as we seek to be faithful with our time and energy. From holidays to basic ways that people go to the store, it has been a massive learning process.
While it's normal to get around our cities by car in the States, it is far more normal to use the public transportation system here. Trains and Trams are extremely practical, though getting to know the yellow box below was something new (you'd think the cheapest option was for the shortest amount of time, but come to find out those tickets are for children...oops.). But the good news is that we've come to the point where we can get around the city just fine and even engage in some simple Czech conversations.
What is a Czech hike?
Before we arrived here, we were warned about Czech hikes. Many Czech people walk a lot. And when I say that, I don't think most American's know what I mean by that. They really walk A LOT. And I was not ready for what we went up north to do in mid January. They said it would be a 20km (about a half marathon) hike through the mountains. "Shouldn't be too bad," I thought. But it wound up being as intense as running a half marathon. What was first a brisk fast paced walk, through a few inches of snow, turned into trudging through 1-3 feet of snow for a good couple kilometers at a time uphill, downhill, UPhill, downhill, and a whole lot of UPHILL.
Thankfully the trip was with a group of guys I've come to know as family here. But by the time we had to turn back, there was a small blizzard and a whole lot of up hill hiking to do. Will I do it again? Probably....
It has been an adjustment figuring out a number of things, like school (for both the kids and us) and our place in this city. We know who we are and why we're here, but the details of what that looks like are a process of learning and adapting where needed. The overall hot topic for our family has definitely been how we want to educate our kids. There are many benefits of having the kids in Czech school, and there are many benefits of having them do homeschooling with the classical model. But which one is best here and now? We don't know. But we've made the decision to put the kids in the Czech school system so that they will learn the language and make friends.
So far school has been a hard transition for them, since most of the kids are timid to interact with each other not knowing each other's languages. And there have been a few additional culture shocks along the way in this area as well. This is all very normal, we're told, but the process can be a struggle, since we want the kids to thrive. But the positives have outweighed the negatives. Lisa has time to devote to her language studies and we're all learning pieces of the culture that we wouldn't have learned otherwise.
Getting to know the holiday traditions has been fun and interesting for sure. The Christmas market in the main square made the city look festive, and the events that went on around the area made it feel similar to what we have in the States. But the specifics were what made the differences stand out. Instead of Santa Clause (though they have a St. Nicholas day), they use baby Jesus to give out presents on Christmas eve, and there is something about a Christmas Carp that we don't really understand still. But the culture, while mythologizing Christmas in a different way than the American's do, still has a semblance of the supernatural in their traditions. And this actually gives us a number of points of reference in conversation.
Besides consistent language learning, which is beginning to put Seminary to shame in difficulty, we're still loving the community group that we get to pour into, and just recently Dan started an International Bible study with a small group of guys from around the world. It may be some time before we're speaking consistently in Czech, but we're always looking for ways to be used along the way. We're also working on a parenting workshop, where Lisa and myself will be leading a teaching/group discussion for people from the church and around the city, to encourage and disciple parents to have the practical tools to raise kids to the glory of God.
This next week we will be heading to a retreat with the church to encourage each other and get on the same page for what this next season will bring us, and then we'll be heading to Hungary for a family conference to better understand life as a missionary family. .