Wednesday, August 27, 2008

So ... how's that move coming?

Cardinal rule of blogging: broken. I could make excuses about Internet access and bein' busy, but Sean's been in the same situation as me and managed to send out quite a few posts since we arrived. Of course, he was often doing this:

Yes, that is Sean precariously balancing his laptop on the sill of our bedroom window (no screen, sixth floor up), hoping to catch some wifi on the wind. We found that if it was both morning and not too humid, we had a fairly good chance of getting a weak-and -unstable-but-serviceable signal at that exact spot. Fortunately, you can't really beat that spot as far as views go. I mean ... castle! I love waking up and looking out to see it every morning through these huge, cheerful windows.

While we still enjoy standing at those windows, our wifi pirating days are over. These last few days have been remarkable in terms of taking care of the necessities: we have cable Internet here at the house, we have cell phones and bus passes. Today we started the process of getting our visas at the police station and tomorrow we will go for a medical check up required by the school--after this weekend (long weekend for national holidays) we'll also have a local bank account. None of this can be credited to our ambition or moxie: our hosts and guides have taken care of us and all the details--we've just shown up with our documents and been ready to sign stuff! We're feeling blessed in so many ways these days.

So, now that I really have no excuses, some first impressions of our new home:
  • Sean is still an excellent cook here, and my baking skills seem to have traveled with us as well. Of course there are some differences in the ingredients, tools, measurements and methods, but so far we're doing quite well. I'll be sure to document our first (and, from what I've heard, inevitable) spectacular cooking/baking failure. Until then, though ...Sean made one of the best spaghetti sauces ever with oven-roasted tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and garlic. I made a loaf of banana bread, which you can see featured in this picture along with a St. Luke's prayer shawl (we've had some cool days already!) I substituted plain yogurt for the sour cream and it worked beautifully. I also made bread pudding, but it was a Paula Deen recipe and maybe unnecessarily sweet. I think I'd like to make cookies next, but we'll need to track down a cookie sheet. Everything is just a little different, and it's hard for me to explain exactly how: sugar, flour, butter ... but so far it's all turning into yummy stuff. One interesting difference we've noticed in the grocery store is that we can't find celery but celery root, or celeriac, is everywhere, even little tiny convenience stores. Time to make some soup! Also, the quality of fruit, especially stone fruit, in the grocery stores seems better here. It had been a long time since I'd had a good plum.
  • On our first day in Slovakia, David and Carla took us to one of their favorite places for pizza. When we sat down our menu didn't have any pizza in it. We got a menu from another table--it, too, seemed to have had a page removed. We found out from the waiter that the restaurant, which continues to have the word "pizza" in its name, no longer serves pizza. This was especially weird because David and Carla had just gotten pizza there recently. Then a copy shop that had been open the day before closed without warning for renovations. Then Larry noticed the picture on my desktop: I told him I took it from the tower of Bratislava castle. "When?" he asked. "In January." "Right before it closed down for repairs... why ... it's you!" Yes, I am behind all these strange events. Beware. Bwah ha ha.
  • So, between all that and successfully predicting the weather (I've started getting migraines the day before storm systems move in ... blergh) I've been pretty busy, but not too busy to pick up some basic and useful Slovak phrases. I'm pretty good at saying thank you, hello (at various times of day), excuse me, I'm sorry, good-bye, please and I don't know. I've gotten good enough at these phrases that I have misled many well-meaning strangers into thinking I know Slovak; hilarity ensues. The only solution is to learn Slovak! Put it on the list!
  • My first Sunday in Slovakia I helped lead the singing and the prayers of the church, enjoyed sitting in the congregation with Sean, and got to meet many good folks after the service at coffee hour. My second Sunday I got robed and led worship with Pastor David, taking on parts of the liturgy previously off-limits to me (parts marked "P"!) I got to lead my favorite part of the service: the order for confession and forgiveness. It is such a reliable and powerful witness to God's grace--we confess that we are in bondage to sin, we cannot free ourselves, and we hear and receive the Good News that ALL our sins are ENTIRELY forgiven. What could be better? How about a baptism? We baptized an adult member of the congregation--it was baptism, confirmation, and first communion all at once, as in the Orthodox tradition. That baptism made everything feel even more precious than usual: the gift of water, the welcome of the table, the way the Word came to us in the sermon and the hymns, especially as we sang "Go, my children, with my blessing," the beautiful sending song by Slovak hymn-writer Jaroslav Vajda, who just passed away this summer. "In my love's baptismal river/I have made you mine forever/Go my children, with my blessing, you are my own." My parents and I sang this hymn and wept before I moved to Texas; Sean and I sang it walking down the aisle together as very-newly-weds; we sang it at St. Luke's again the Sunday I preached and the congregation prayed for our safe transition to Slovakia. I've always associated it closely with St. Luke's, and home, but now I also connect it with Slovakia, with the baptisms celebrated and remembered all over the world, and with finding home in Christian community near and far.

Well, now I've broken another rule of blogging and gone on for too long. No excuses, just one more picture.
This is our magnetic photo wall. We realized the day we left for Bratislava that we have lots of prints from our wedding and pretty much no other recent events. We also ended up with too many pictures of just the two of us and we know what we look like. Send us photos! We will display them with honor and care. Our mailing address is here.

Later, gators.


novelgazer said...

I've gotten especially good at “Pardon me” and “I'm sorry,” which seem to come up in all of my conversations.

Pastor Annie said...

Sean pointed out the that the first rule of blogging is actually to never blog about blogging ... which I also did.