11 10 / 2014

Year 3 has begun.  What’s happened so far?? 

A trip to Vienna:  After the first week of inservices at school, we were blessed with an extended weekend to celebrate the Slovak National Uprising.  We took this opportunity to visit Vienna and be able to spend some time with the other Americans in Bratislava, all at the same time! 

image

image

image

image

image

 

Muráň- Again, after a little while of teaching, we had another day off for a national celebration.  We took this day to spend some time with our students whom we hadn’t obviously seen all summer and whom I no longer have the opportunity to teach.  We went for a day of hiking to castle ruins in a nearby town making it my fourth adventure there. 

image

Cartwheels at the top of the mountain.  

image

image

image

image

image

"We are cute".  Her new favorite thing for me to say in Slovak: "Sme zlate". 

 

Baseball:  We were asked to lead a baseball game for a bible study to bring students and teachers together in a game of fun and fellowship.  It was most of their first time playing, so, with that in mind, it was a huge success!! 

image

image

     

School Fair:  Lastly, I was asked this year to go along with two students and one other teacher to “sell” our school.  In Slovakia, students get to choose which high school they attend because they all have a different emphasis:  technical schools, bilingual English/ Lutheran schools (EGT), math, science, technology…  Therefore, there were many schools which were brought together from around our region to show what they have to offer to the eighth graders that will soon have to make their decisions.  

It was a really amazing day filled with laughter, debates with other schools, and time spent with two of the most outgoing students I’ve ever met in my life.  There is another fair coming up in a few weeks, and I’m hoping we get to repeat this day all over again.  

image

image

image

       

So far this year, not too much has strayed from the the norm that’s been acquired over the past two years.  With this, there are obviously positives and negatives.  But, beneath this surface, there are always new struggles and new triumphs within each and every one of us.  

There are so many times in life when we ask where God is.  Why is something happening that’s completely out of our control and seems to be nothing but wrong?  But, there are also those times when we cannot help but see Him in every aspect of our lives and the world around us.  In times of worry and of doubt, we need to keep those glorious times at the forefront of our minds.  

Isaiah 41:10- “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  

Creating a community of believers and followers of God is the best in these circumstances.  I ask that we all take the time each day to pray for one another.  Whether it be to celebrate the good in our lives, or whether we have to search for that good and pray for the troubles instead.  We need to rely on one another as God’s children and help support each other as we walk together in this life.  God knows our thoughts, our feelings, and our hearts, but what better way to connect with Him than to talk it out and allow Him to know that He is still the most important part of our lives.  

Psalm 145:18- “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

07 8 / 2014

Being home the summer between my second and third year spent abroad, living and teaching in Slovakia, I have been asked countless questions repeatedly.  Some of the most common include: 

  • Is this going to be your last year? 
  • How long do you plan on staying over there? 
  • Are you going to move over there permanently/ when are you going to move over there permanently? 
  • When are you going to grow up and get a real job? 
  • When are you going to start your life? 
  • What are you going to do when you come back? 
  • What are you going to do financially until you get a real job? 

Although some of these questions are quite valid and are expressed with utmost concern, it is hard to answer these questions without a little bit of a saddened heart.  While having the chance to go on this mission, others around me, obviously, do not.  This being said, I think I would be able to say that a majority of those directly impacting my life do not truly understand what this experience is all about and why I am doing it.  So, here it comes; the reasons behind doing mission work abroad for not one year or two years or possibly even three, but leaving it up to God. 

I truly cannot say 100% positively that this will be my last year abroad.  Do I believe that it will be?  Yes.  Do I know what God has planned for my future after this upcoming year?  No.  I have no clue what God’s plans are for my life at the moment.  I, of course being the planner that I am, have come up with a five year plan that I’d love to fulfill.  Will it come to reality?  I am not sure, and I don’t think that anybody can say for sure what they will be doing in five years.  It doesn’t work that way.  God is the leader of our lives, and we must slow down and listen to where He is calling us next.  So saying that I know if it will be my last year or how long I will be staying or what I’ll be doing in the future is left just there, in the future.  When God decides to let me in on His plan for the future, I will be sure to relay the message.  Until then, I’m living in the moment of the life He has provided for me, as it is one heck of an experience as it is existing.  And no, I do not believe, wholeheartedly, that I will ever live in Slovakia for the rest of my life.  I need to get out and explore more than just one country for the remainder of the life that I have to live. 

To address when I will grow up, get a real life, and start living my life, I would like to debunk a few beliefs.  I am a grown up.  Believe it or not, teaching is a real profession whether it be in Lehighton, in state, in country, or abroad.  Teaching has to be one of the most demanding jobs that I could possibly fathom, and if you think I’m bluffing, I would love to give you the opportunity to deal with about 60-90 high school students a day and then plan what to teach them, how, deal with organization and discipline, and then grade about 50 essays every evening.  Have fun.  Although it can be a real blast, it can also be a tad of a challenge, especially due to the fact that English is not their first or, for some, not even their second language.  Not really a cake walk.. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I absolutely adore what I am doing.  That is why I’m doing it, plain and simple.  God has given me this opportunity, and I am taking full advantage of it.  So, yes, to put it simply, I am growing up, working a real job, and living a real life.  Maybe it is not the conventional life that almost everybody else in America tends to comply with, but it is the life that I am living.  I am broadening my horizons and learning more than I have ever expected.  I am becoming educated in the world around me rather than settling into a life that is already built for me, to just sit back and take the easy way out.  I am looking for great adventures and willing to take the risks and time it may take to do so.  

Lastly, for anybody who may read this and worry about my financial state of things, I would simply say to cast away your fears.  I am doing God’s work, and I therefore have complete and utter faith that He will provide for me.  Again, it may not be the conventional way that we are used to, but I am living and surviving just fine.  I may not be wealthy, and I may never be.  But, money is not the root of happiness and is not as essential as everyone may believe.  We always say that money cannot buy happiness, and yes I know that I cannot live on happiness alone, but if God is providing for me, why worry?  In the end, I know that it will all work out.  

So, to conclude, I want to make everybody aware that you have nothing to worry about, and if you do worry about me, my future, my happiness, or my financial status, that you should put those worries on God.  

Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” 

I believe that God has our futures prepared for us, and we need to take a moment and listen to what He has planned.  It is not up to us to decide where we go or what we do in life.  Instead, we need to lean on Him and know that with our faith fully in Him that life will work out the way it was intended to be lived.  

28 12 / 2013

One more adventure! 

London, England- 

As any adventure, we began our first night in London by simply walking around and exploring the city on our own.  Then, on Monday, our true touristy selves came into being.  We began our day by once again going to the free museums the city had to offer.  After this extravaganza, we went to see platform 9 ¾! In spite of the fact that it was not a “true” platform, it was a nice little photo opportunity and gift shop with everything Harry Potter.  I even got to see a little snippet of what Olivander’s would look like and gave Hermoine’s wand a flick.  It was a perfect experience at Christmas time!

image

image

image

 image

image

Tuesday, Christmas Eve, we had a quick, quick day.  We started by spending an abundance of time in Foyle’s, England’s largest book store.  It has been such a long time since I’ve been to a book store with the majority of books written in English, so it was such a pleasure to grab a few, curl up in a corner, and just read a variety of books for fun.  We then went to St. Paul’s Cathedral for Christmas Eve service.  We waited in a line that wrapped entirely around the block and all of the buildings, but it was worth it.  The church and the service were both beautiful and it was the best way to experience the Christmas spirit. 

image

image

image

"Merry Christmas!" My "It’s a Wonderful Life" impersonation.  

Wednesday, Christmas Day, we had one heck of an adventure.  We read that Westminster Abbey had a church service at 8, so we arrived at 6 so we would get into the line earlier than the previous evening.  Sadly, Nina and I discovered that we can’t read, because it was in St. Margret’s Church instead.  We were two hours early, but once the doors finally opened, we were the first, and only ones, there.  And, we got to sit in the choir seats!! That was probably the coolest experience I’ve ever had in such a small facility.  After church, we went to tour the city on our own since everything would be closed.  We went to see Big Ben, the London Eye, the Parliament building, St. Jame’s Park, and Buckingham Palace.  After we toured all of these magnificent landmarks, we went back to Westminster Abbey for another service at 4.  We were probably the 10th people, or so, this time, so we once again got amazing seats.  Nina freaked out as they were right about where the Queen of England sat during the royal wedding; I guess that is pretty crazy!  After our second service of the day, we went back to the hostel and made ourselves a Christmas dinner.  I skyped/ talked with almost all of my family members and really felt like I was still a part of the festivities. 

image

Sneaking pictures while sitting in the choir section of St. Margret’s. 

image

image

image

image

Thursday we began our day with seeing the London Tower and London Bridge.  We then walked to Hyde Park which had the biggest and craziest Christmas market I had ever seen.  It was a mix between a traditional European market and an American festival.  There were traditional stands of food and decorations, yet there were roller coasters, and Christmas “haunted” houses.  It was a little overwhelming.  After that we went to Kensington Palace to see where William and Kate have their current residence, just for Nina.  We then went to Abbey Road, just to recreate the Beatle’s album cover, and take a picture.  Simple, yet entertaining.  Lastly, to end our stay in London, we went to a play, 39 Steps, at the Criterion Center in Piccadilly Circus.  Piccadilly Circus is a close equivalent to New York’s Time Square.  Being there brought me back to home, which was pleasant, and we also saw an amazing show, all thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Grudt. 

image

image

image

image

We flew out extremely early Friday morning, and traveled all day to be back home just in time for dinner and a good night’s sleep.  All in all, a fabulous trip with a pretty fine roommate.

My classic London telephone booth photo.  image

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”


At this time of year, it is easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas.  Let us all simply remember that God gave us His son, so that we can be saved.  What a true blessing and gift given to each and every one of us.  Merry Christmas, and rejoice in the gift we’re given, every day of our lives.  

28 12 / 2013

Dublin, Ireland-

The first day we arrived, despite knowing that it is one of the English speaking countries in the world, we were still shocked by our surroundings.  It was such a weird feeling traveling somewhere and having everybody understand you, being able to talk to others, and understanding all of the signs and what was going on.  It was much different than life has been for the past year and half, minus the little time spent in the states over the summer, obviously.  So, after we got there, we were very excited to go out exploring on our own, as we knew we’d be able to figure out what was going on around us.  We simply walked around the town and Emily and I created a new hobby: statue-ing.  It is just as you may assume; we mimic the statues to the best of our ability and take a photo as remembrance.  Although Nina was embarrassed of our silly antics, she was a good sport during all of it.  Here are a few of my favorites. 

image

image

image

The next day we went on a walking tour.  Along the way, and afterwards, we saw a few major landmarks, including: the Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  I think the most remarkable part of these three landmarks was when we were in Christ Church.  I saw a banner across the front of the church with the initials “IHS” which is the Latin name for Jesus.  It was crazy to me that the same thing that we have hanging in our church at home can be found half way across the world.  Christianity truly is about the relationship with Christ and about sharing that love with others: Christians, people of other religions, and nonbelievers alike.  It was such a great reminder that the world is unified by His love for us despite who we are or where we’re from.  

image

image

Tuesday we went out for a little excursion.  We went to the Cliffs of Moher along the southwest coast of the island.  It was nice being away from the city atmosphere so that we could fully see and partake in the Irish culture.  It was quite windy, as it was next to the ocean, but it was still a gorgeous day.  On our way back, we stopped at a few traditional eateries and got some true Irish cuisine.  

image

image

image

Wednesday we took it easy and went to visit the Kilmainham Gaol, the former prison of many of the Irish Rebellion leaders, and toured the Guinness factory.  image

image

Our final day was spent going to Trinity College and various museums around the city.  One of the absolute best parts of going to the British Islands and other various places around the world is that a majority of museums have free entrance.  What could possibly be better than becoming educated and cultured in a new part of the world, for free?!  It’s so wonderful, and we loved partaking in such a great activity.  After we were museum-ed out, we packed and explored the town one last time before departing the next day.  image

image

All Saint’s Day

On our way back from the airport, we made a pit stop in Detva to visit one of our colleagues, Peter, and his family.  They hosted us for a nice dinner upon arrival, and then we just talked and celebrated their holiday for the night.  The next day, we went to visit his grandmother.  In Slovakia, All Saint’s Day is a holiday celebrated on November 1st where families around the country go the gravestones of their loved ones and honor them with candles and flowers.  The cemeteries all over are aglow which adds a special flare to every city, along with the sentimental aspect to the holiday as well.  This year, we took Peter’s grandmother to the cemetery and helped her lay her flowers and candles.  Afterwards, we visited the home in which she grew up, and met her sister who is the current occupant.  Although neither of them speaks English, it was so sweet of them to spend their special holiday with a few complete strangers and take us in as if they’d known us for years.  The Slovak customs and its people are very special and hospitable, especially compared to any other culture I’ve ever before encountered.  

"So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” - Romans 12:5

For me, I often don’t think of others, just due to the fact of what is all on my mind at once.  I tend to think of just our school, our staff, my friends, my family, my home congregation, and my town, and don’t think that there are literally millions of other bodies around the world.  Some may have harder lives, while some may have it easier.  Despite the circumstances, every now and then, we must reflect on those individuals we may/ may not know.  Each one was created as a child of God, and therefore, each one is special in His eyes.  We, as individuals, may it be in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, Tisovec, Slovakia, a tiny villiage in Alaska, or anywhere in between, all make up the community of church through Christ.  We are one body, all together. 

28 12 / 2013

Well, it just so happens that the first thing that has been completely and utterly different this year caught us all a little by surprise.  

As I wrote last year, we went to a “Christmas” party held in October by one of our student’s parents.  It’s held so early in the year so they can have a proper gulaš party outside before it’s too cold.  

As it is very far away, we were given the option to ride bikes to the party.  Unfortunately, since Courtney is not the most coordinated person in the world, this did not end too well.  On the way down, it was quite steep and rocky.  I somehow turned the bike and fell rapidly.  I got a pretty beautiful gash on my arm, which I didn’t think was too bad, but everyone else seemed to disagree.  (I guess in reality getting it to stop bleeding by inserting a tampon fully into the gash might be a sign that the tape I wanted to use to pull it together wouldn’t fully be enough).  Oh shucks.

image

Instead, when we all finally got back down to town, our headmistress, who was along for the ride, called an ambulance.  For those of you who don’t know me too well, I don’t do hospitals, or doctors, or most definitely not ambulances.  So, after I got checked out, I was driven, by car, to the hospital, about 25 minutes away.  

image

The hospital was a fun experience.  The lights were off since it was a Saturday and not a normal business day.  The layout was interesting, to say the least, and I was later informed that it is the absolute worst hospital in the area.  Yay!!  (And, as I was in this medical room getting stitched up on my own, Nina and Emily ran around the hospital taking pictures.  Aren’t they wonderful??) Here’s just one of the few they were able to get.  It’s just a little different there than in America.  Wouldn’t you agree? 

image

But, even after all of this, I only had to get three stitches, which came out promptly one week later.  

I now have had my first set of stitches, and from Slovakia nonetheless.  Some things you can never quite predict, but I will now never be able to forget my time here since my forearm will always be a constant reminder. 

"Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.” - Psalm 30:2

Despite what kind of trouble, sickness, or healing we all may need, call upon the Lord and know that He can heal whatever it is you are in need of.  For me, it was the physical aspect that needed healing during this time.  But, this is obviously not the only healing needed.  We all sin, but we must also remember that His hand is all that we need to heal our broken hearts.  Calling upon the Lord is the only medicine we need in any situation that we may encounter, may it be physical, spiritual, or mental. 

28 12 / 2013

So, I decided that I am going to continue to blog, but just about the major differences from year one to year two.  So far, not much is too different.  It’s pretty much been the same schedule, almost all of the same kids, almost all of the same staff, and a daily routine.  But, of course, some things are bound to be different when it’s no longer new.  For example, having the same classes equals almost zero prep for this year!  Hooray!! Yet, there is always something in life to keep you busy.  At this point in time, I can only think of three Major differences from last year, which include fall break, Christmas break, and a little something out of the blue.  If you want to actually read what’s been going on in detail thus far, please check out Nina’s blog instead.  She’s very diligent with this whole blogging process.  I’m glad one of us is!! 

http://ninainslovakia.blogspot.sk/

25 5 / 2013

Over a month after the last post, and less than a month until my departure. It is absolutely crazy to believe I have been living and working in a foreign country for such an extended period of time.  It feels like just a few months ago I was scared to even imagine this life, let alone be living it, and yet it is almost over already.  

In May, there are two national holidays which are celebrated: one being labor day and the other victory over fascism day.  Both of these days ended up falling on Wednesdays, so we had a nice little break during the week from teaching.  The first of May, five other teachers and I went to a place called Slovak paradise where we went hiking and climbing for a few hours.  Then, on the eighth of May, I went hiking to the highest point in Tisovec with two pretty wonderful students.  Afterwards, we played tennis for two hours, and then I met some colleagues for a cook out at our flat.  All in all, two wonderful days outside of the classroom.  

Throughout the past month, a lot of little things, like the already mentioned holidays, have been going on to most definitely keep us busy.  But, the most important would be keeping up with our fifth years.  

EGT is a 5 year bilingual high school.  In Slovakia, you must first take your Maturita exams, graduate, and then take the entrance exams for university.  Because of this, graduation is at the end of May/ beginning of June because the students will be travelling to their future schools to take the exams.  

This past week, the students have been studying and stressing, taking their exams.  It is kind of like finals in the states, but with much more emphasis.  They walk into the exam room, one at a time, pull a question, have time to prep, and present their answer or theory to a panel of teachers from our school and one guest panelist.  

During this week, all of the other students had some time off, and some time outside of the school.  I had the opportunity to spend time with the third years Monday and Tuesday by accompanying them to a nearby cave and then hiking up the mountain in our town.  It was fun spending time with all of them for a few hours and engaging them in extra English conversation practice!  On Wednesday, the first and second years returned to class, as did I.

To end the week, yesterday, the fifth years graduated.  It is not typical to have a graduation ceremony in Slovakia, but EGT has taken up this American tradition as a request from former American teachers to bring a part of our culture to the area.  They wore green caps and gowns as a symbol of luck.  We gathered in the church, sang songs, listened to a sermon, had the presentation of their Maturita certificates, had a speech by the student and parent representatives, and then ended the ceremony.  We then all gathered together for a reception where about half of the students received awards for representing the school positively throughout the past 5 years.  

It is sad to believe that I may never see some of these students again, but I know that they will all succeed and go on to do wonderful things with their lives. I pray that God can be with all of the graduates and their families, near and far.  May He take you and guide you on your path in life and help you to fulfill all of the dreams that you may cary with you.  It may be rough or scary at times, but He will never leave your side and if you believe it, you can achieve it.  Good luck in all that you do and with all that is yet to come! Congratulations!!

 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This does not only apply to those who are graduating or moving on to new things in life.  No matter who you are, what you are doing, or where you are at in life, this advice rings true for all of us. Do not worry or be afraid of what could potentially lie ahead; God is always with us.  So, take that leap or even that step toward the future and be strong and courageous in all that you do.  

12 4 / 2013

March and April have been pretty low key compared to the past few months. Only a few things really stick out in my head.

1. Maturita- In order to graduate high school in Slovakia, you need to pass the leaving exam, otherwise known as the Maturita. The students, during March, took the English writing, math (optional), and the 4th years took their Slovak language exam. This was a little nerve racking, even for me, because I have been the one in charge of the 5th year writing class. We will see in just a few short months whether or not I have been an effective teacher. They still have English conversation remaining, along with their choice of any two other subjects coming up in May.

2. English club- My first year English club has continued to hang on, sometimes by a thread, but it is still withstanding the length of this year thus far. In the past few months, we have watched movies, sang karaoke, painted eggs and made cupcakes, and this past week made halušky- the national Slovak food- potato dumplings with sheep cheese and bacon.  It has been nice getting together with students outside of the classroom to really just spend time together, do a fun activity, speak English, and get to know them better.  On top of all of this, I have seen a huge growth in the students since the beginning of the year.  The past two weeks, they have worked completely on their own with just my overseeing help.  In Slovakia, most people do not make cupcakes or even know what they are.  My students not only made them on their own, but they also read and followed an English standard measurement recipe.  They also completely prepared the halušky on their own and gave me a few pointers and directions along the way.  I have been mighty impressed with their abilities to lead and take control.

image

A few of the boys cutting up the bacon for the halušky.

3. Easter- Over Easter, I first travelled to Košice once again to meet Ashley and her parents.  It was wonderful to see her again and to be able to meet her terrific and hilarious parents.  The first moment upon arriving at the hotel, they handed me a gift of American peanut butter.  What isn’t to love about them??  After two days in Košice, I travelled to Krakow, Poland with Krystal, one of the new American lectors in Tisovec.  We went to Auschwitz concentration camp on Saturday and got a tour of the grounds.  After the tour, we went to the Easter market in the town square which was full of Easter eggs, taffy, and porcelain.  It was so festive and amazing.  We were also able to go to an English church service Easter morning which was the best thing ever.  I have not been able to understand a full service since November, so it was a real treat.  Although the weather was not ideal at some points in time, it was still a very informational and cultural experience. 

image

image

image

Inside of the gas chamber. 

image

At Birkenau, if you were deemed not able to work upon arrival, you were sent to the right, down this path, which led straight to your execution.  If you were chosen as able to perform manual labor, you were sent to the left, into long, drafty “homes” where you slept on planks of wood, and sometimes hay or paper if you were lucky, with about two to three other people per “bed”.

image

image

The little Catholic Church we went to on Easter morning. 

4. Easter traditions- Thankfully, I did not have to partake in any Slovak traditions since I was in Poland, but I thought I would share the biggest one.  On Easter Monday, the boys celebrate their favorite holiday of the year.  At this time, they go to girls (it can be any at all, but most often they just go to family and friends) and splash them with water or perfume, or tap them (hopefully very gently) with a whip.  This is to give the girls health and fertility for the upcoming year.  After this, the girls must reward the boys with chocolate, candy, or money.  I haven’t exactly figured out yet how or why this tradition started or still exists, but it sure is a one of a kind event. 

5. Birthdays- Since beginning to write this post, Katherine and I have both now celebrated a birthday in April.  It was my first birthday away from home, which was hard, but nonetheless, it was pretty good.  I baked a fruit cake for the staff at school and celebrated today, the Friday after.  I received a bunch of chocolate, a mug, and a few interesting words of wisdom/ gifts from some of my colleagues.  I also had one of my classes all stand up and sing to me before the class began and one student sang a very short rap that he composed himself.  In addition, I also received a bunch of cards written from home from family, friends, and people in our congregation.  It was the little things that really made this birthday special, despite the people that were missing in the celebration.  Finally, I was able to call my grandmother the midnight before my birthday.  By doing this, I was able to talk to her on both of our birthdays at once.  Hers is the tenth, mine the eleventh, and by calling at midnight, it was my birthday in Slovakia, and her birthday in the states.  Pretty awesome thought on my behalf, I must say.  

Otherwise, school is continuing on and drawing to a close oh so quickly.  It will be so soon when there will no longer be months to count, but weeks.  Until then, remain positive in spirit, hope, and prayer. 

“However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all“- Ecclesiastes 11:8 

Now that the holidays and celebrations are over and spring has yet to be sprung, at least here in Slovakia, there may be times and days when we get down on ourselves, about our luck, situations, or others.  But, we must always remember the good that has been created in our lives by our sovereign lord.  Although the weather may be dreary and miserable, this means that spring is here and good weather is on its way.  This also means that harvests will be plentiful and the vegetation will be numerous.  There may not be any holidays or special days of which to commemorate in the near future, but we have just celebrated one of the most joyous and essential holiday seasons of the year, Easter, the rising of Christ, and should continue to celebrate this all throughout the year.  We must always keep in our minds the good that will triumph in our lives if we just keep our hearts and minds open to the possibilities.  As long as we live on this earth, we shall enjoy the days, celebrate, and praise the lord for what we are given.

"This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” - Psalm 118:24

 

08 3 / 2013

The day we returned from our Christmas holiday was a little overwhelming.  We found out that the other two Americans, Michael and Beckah, were departing in a little less than a week due to the inability to attain their visas.   Katherine and I were also asked about returning for a second year of teaching.  The solution to the first situation was solved after a bit of time.  We have since gained two more American teachers to the EGT staff, Andrew and Krystal.  As for the second situation, I have decided to spend another year here in Slovakia, crazy! 

Here are a few other events that have taken place. 

January:

- Ples- Ples is prom which is put on by the fourth year student company group.  They perform a few dances, songs, and skits, dinner is served, and the rest of the night is spent dancing.  It was a lot of fun spending time with the other teachers and the students in a completely relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere.

 

The teacher table

A traditional folk dance performed by a group including quite a few of our students. 

Katherine and my rendition of a typical Slovak student picture.  

- End of the semester- To some, this may not sound like anything important or spectacular.  But, for anybody who has ever taught, it was an absolute nightmare.  I had students follow me around school, find me during every possible second of free time, and just pester until they received the answer that they wanted to hear.  A warning for all who want to go into education, the time before grades are due, especially with older students, is horrendous!  They will complain and throw a fuss until they get the grade they think they deserve or will just have an extreme hatred toward you for your refusal to allow make-up work.  Or, the best option, they will just subtly, and not so subtly, tell you their feelings explicitly through the form of their final test. 

 

February: 

- English competition- I was given the opportunity to go to Zvolen for the day with two of our fifth year students.  They competed in a regional English competition.  I was one of the three native English speakers and had to read dialogues and perform role plays with the students I was assigned.  It was actually a lot of fun, and both of our EGT students came in second in their category.  It was a terrific experience!

- Spring break- Yes, I know, it is still not even spring.  But, schools throughout Slovakia break at different times, and they also enjoy spending this spring vacation skiing.  Therefore, spring break at EGT this year was the last week in February.  This was a huge highlight within the past few months.  Although travelling was completely horrible and I’d care not to relive it, once the vacation began, there were not any snags along the way.  I travelled to Munich, Germany and met my parents!! We spent four nights in Germany.  We took a tour of Munich and saw all of the old Nazi buildings and Hitler’s headquarters.  It was really awesome, and we were even able to see some buildings that survived the war and have battle wounds.  We also went to sleeping beauty’s, King Ludwig II’s, castle for a day.  It was really gorgeous despite the fog, and I might now want to live in a castle on the top of a mountain.  After our few days there, we drove back to Tisovec.  On our way, we stopped in Vienna and Bratislava for a tad.  We then toured the cozy town of Tisovec, had a few meals out, and spent some time together after seven months apart.  All in all, it was a really great vacation.  

Actual scars from the war.  

Hitler’s office building.  It was somehow completely untouched.

 

Hofbrauhaus, Munich 

Sleeping Beauty’s castle 

This past week, after our vacation, was the hardest week I’ve ever had. I have never felt more exhausted than at this time.  I don’t know how it was possible.  I also realized during this week that I have had a pretty decent number of students who say/ have said derogatory things to or in reference to me.  I think that this must mean I am doing something effectively.  When I think back to high school, the teachers that I learned the most from were those that I disliked the most at the time.  They gave too much work, expected too much, and never, in my opinion at the time, took the time to see things from our point of view.  I have now become one of those teachers.  I know the ability level and handwriting of all of my 64 first year students, and they cannot get away with anything.  I guess that they may not like me now and may get fed up with my constant work, but they will soon realize how much they have acquired because of the effort that I have made them put in.  I’m actually very excited for them to realize this despite the amount of time between their contempt now, to then.  

 

Psalm 32:8

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." 

Each and every person is a teacher in life.  As teachers, we are all constantly instructing and showing others what the best options and paths may be.  But, the good teacher always has an eye upon his pupil; the outcome and road must always be monitored carefully so the instruction is tailored and pure.  I feel like knowing the handwriting of my students this past week has shown me that I do take that extra step of counseling and keeping an eye on each and every one of them.  I cannot help but feel a strong sense of nurturing both in and outside of the classroom.  

Additionally, this is how we are viewed by God.  He watches, advises, and counsels our every step and every decision that we make.  So, each time we do something and think that the teacher and instructor of our lives is not present, we need to remember that He is.  My students may not notice that I watch over them and their work so closely, but I always do.  God is even more attentive and loving than any of us could ever think of. 

01 1 / 2013

A tad of an amount of time has passed.   Many exciting and memorable things have happened in that time.  Some of the things I have encountered since around September include:

- “All Hallows Eve” -  which is a celebration that each family takes part in on the 1st of November.  They do not celebrate Halloween.  Instead, each family goes to the cemetary and commemorates those that they have lost by praying and lighting candles in their rememberance.  

- Stužková- Each grade level is broken into two catergories: A’s and B’s.  At the beginning of their fifth year, the students take part in Stužková.  It is a program to celebrate the students who will be graduating.  They are first pinned for their Maturita (exam that is taken in order to graduate in the Spring).  After this, there are skits put on by the students.  Lastly, there is a dance for the students, parents, and faculty to celebrate.  

- Thanksgiving:

> celebrated in Bratislava with all of the other Americans in an ELCA program in Central Europe.  We had traditional American Thanksgiving foods such as turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pecan pie.  We were all able to rejoin with those that we went through orientation with in August and also meet those who are currently serving in Hungary.  

> celebrated in Tisovec with all of the EGT faculty.  The school held this occassion for the faculty since it is a huge part of our culture.  It was a great opportunity to sit and talk with some of my colleagues that I never had the chance to communicate with before.  Again, although it was not as typically prepared, we enjoyed turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.  

- Christmas Program-  Since I teach first years for 16 out of my 22 hours per week, I  was given, in my opinion, a special opportunity at the end of November.  Each year, the first year students write, organize, and perform a Christmas program.  I was able to be with these students all day, every day for the week to help them prepare.  I helped to translate/ fix the text, observe, and basically do anything else I was able to.  I had such a wonderful experience spending so much time with a great group of students outside of the classroom where they also were very focused and determined at the same time.  They put on the show three times, and in the end, it was a huge success!!

- Slovak traditions- There were four traditions I was able to take part in during the preparation for the Christmas holiday:

1. Cabbage pressing- preparing the cabbage for the Christmas soup that is made in each family.

2. Sausage making- making homemade sausage, again for the Christmas soup

3. Kapustnica preparations- the making of the Christmas soup which includes cabbage, sausage, ham, and pork.  It varies by family recipe, but this is the general idea.

4. Gingerbread making- most families prepare gingerbread as their Christmas dessert, and it is absolutely delicious.  

- Debate- So far this year, I have been trying my best to help with an English debate club.  Six of these students went to Košice for an English debate, but it fell on a weekend of Stužková, so I was unable to attend.  Because of this, I was later given the chance to accompany the students in Pieštany as they went for a Slovak debate competition.  Although I was unable to understand the debates that occurred, I was able to help keep time.  More importantly, I was able to talk to this group of students outside of the classroom and really get to know them on a more personal level.  Again, it was wonderful getting to interact with them in a completely different setting. 

- Christmas- This was the first time that I have ever celebrated away from home and family.  Despite this fact, I had a great time partaking in another culture.  Instead of staying in Slovakia, I traveled to Hungary to celebrate with Ashley, an ELCA volunteer I met during our Thanksgiving festivities.  We went to several church services, had communion, got acquainted with one another, watched movies, and ate some traditional American food.  After Christmas was over, we travelled to Debrecen, a Hungarian city south of her town, to explore.  From there, we went to Košice for the day, again just to explore.  Both cities were absolutely amazing, and we had a magnificent time!  

- New Year- This New Year’s Eve was spent with some pretty fantastic people including some I have known for quite some time now, and others who I just had the opportunity of meeting.  We celebrated together throughout the evening, and although there was no ball drop in Time Square, there were fireworks lit all over the town.  

Now, it is time for 2013.  I am very excited to see what it holds and what will come by this time next year.  I hope everybody had a wonderful holiday season and has a safe, happy, and prosperous new year!!