Reflections on National Schooling

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{Claire’s class at graduation}

I remember my first day of entering a new school in the Czech Republic. I had already been going to public school in a different city in Czech since 1st grade, but we moved when I was 7, so in 2nd grade, I started all over again. I remember not knowing how things worked, how to sit right, how to even make friends. I had been speaking Czech for a few years by then, but I still felt it was a bit of a foreign world.

Though my experiences in a local school were different from most MKs, I still went through the culture shock. My parents did too! But I can’t express enough how much I value not only my education through Czech school, but also the community I was able to be a part of because of it.  There would have been no way I could have learned the language as quickly had I not gone to school, forcing me to speak Czech for 6 hours a day.

I’m on my way to college today. Yes, I am flying today to the States, where I will for the first time in my life go to an American school. Looking back on my Czech schooling experience now (and being finished with it – I passed those last exams!! Woohoo!), I thought I’d share a few tips with you on how to excel, when everything in your head says you can’t:

  1. Invest in going to a tutor – I have been going to tutoring since 2nd grade. My tutor was not professionally trained, but he has a knack for explaining things. He helped me with my Czech (drilling vocabulary and grammar), and then later on, with anything I needed. If I didn’t understand a biology assignment, he worked through it with me. If I was struggling with history, he was there. I always felt so comforted knowing that I wasn’t in school “alone”, and plus, it took off pressure from my parents who didn’t understand it any better than I did!

  2. Listen, observe, and mimic – these are TCK skills that I think you all have! But I put it in as a reminder. On that first day, if everyone stands up at the beginning of class to greet the teacher, do the same (yes we did this!). If everyone is writing with a ballpoint pen, go buy one too.

  3. Ask lots of questions – teachers realize you’re a foreigner. And usually if you show interest, they will be extremely kind and gracious, especially if you are respectful and kind to them too. This also shows you’re trying, and teachers value that!

  4. Let your parents sit in on a class with you – sometimes it helps if your parent understands your world a bit, and it’s safer too that they see what you’re in. Some schools have “visiting” days, but in Czech, they were always willing to work with my parents.

  5. Talk about it – there are going to be hard things. I guarantee it. People won’t understand you, you will always be different from everyone else, and goodness, you’re speaking your second language all day! Talk to your national friends about it – help them understand; tell your parents about your day; gush to your best friend about the hilarious things or the really tough moments.

  6. Laugh – try not to take things too seriously. If going to national school doesn’t work out, it’s ok! There are other options. If there’s a misunderstanding (yes, totally arrived at the bus station for a field trip at the wrong time once), make the best of it. Be willing to humor a situation, and humor yourself too.

Here are some of the things I value most about those 13 years in national school:

  1. I can speak the language without thinking! Not only is this good for me, but it meant a lot to Czechs that I cared about their language and was committed to them, and their country!

  2. I had Czech friends. Making friends in school is much easier than having to do it any other way. You are with the same people every day, and you experience the ups and downs together.

  3. I understood Czechs better. Experiencing what kids my age were going through in everyday life helped me know them better.

  4. The ministry opportunities were there. Most of my classmates weren’t believers, so I got to share about Jesus with my friends. What a privilege!

  5. Close-knit family. My dad worked with youth, my mom stood by him, serving with him. And us kids (me and my two older brothers) were in it with them! We didn’t stand apart, but felt like we were all missionaries together.

I know that national school is not the best option for everyone. It doesn’t always work out how we want it to. But, for me, as an MK who has gone through the Czech schooling system, I can say, it was worth it. I hope you consider trying the same at least for a year, or putting your own kids in national school some day if you live overseas!

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Read more from Claire on her blog!

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Wherever I Settle

Night hike 6 s

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Two years ago, I learned Psalm 139 by heart at JV Kid’s Camp. I have heard all those verses, and yet, the Lord can use them over and over to remind us of His heart for us. I was reading that particular psalm again a couple of weeks ago, and these two verses stood out…

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

-Psalm 139:9-10

All of a sudden those verses came alive for me. I’m not rising on the wings of dawn, but I am getting up early on the 15th of August to get on an airplane. That airplane will take me to the farthest side of the ocean, to a completely different world. I will settle far away from where I am now for college.

Even THERE His hand will guide me.

How comforting those words became to me in a moment! God knows what I’m heading into, and He promises to be there. He knows I’m moving, settling somewhere new, but He already has plans set out for me there. His spirit will not leave me.

His right hand will hold me fast.

He won’t let me slip. I think of what it would mean if I were walking somewhere unknown and maybe a bit scary, and my dad held my hand in his. Safety. Security. Knowing that the Lord will hold me fast means that no matter what happens, or what changes I face, He won’t let me out of His sight, and I can fall back on Him always.

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republished with permission from Claire’s blog: Claire’s Corner

A Travel Guide to Prague by Claire P.

travel guide to prague

Oh, where do I even start? The city of Prague is so dear to my heart that I don’t even know how to capture it in a few paragraphs. I will say though, that this is a city you need to experience, explore, and wander in.

The streets in Prague are magical. I live on the other side of the country, so only visit there once or twice a year, but every time I do, those little winding alleys and cobblestone roads are all I need to see. Of course, the Charles’ Bridge, Vysehrad and the National Museum etc. are more famous, but the heart of the city lies in the more hidden places. If all you were to do in Prague was walk, that would be enough to fall in love with the city.

a-lovely-way-to-get-round

When you go to Prague, look up. Yes, look up! Every building is detailed, unique, and holds a story. Prague is also known as the “City of a Hundred Spires”. When you hike up to the Prague Castle and look down at the city, you will see why! Literally, hundreds of spires peek out of the city skyline.

As for favorites… I’m just going to list them for you!

lobkowicz-palace

Restaurant:

– U Prince – this hotel and restaurant is located near the Astronomical Clock on Old Times Square. The food tastes good, but I love the view the most. Ask to be seated upstairs, because the outdoor terrace overlooks the square and gives you the best view of a sunset over Prague! It can get chilly sometimes, but they provide blankets for you to use.

view-from-old-town-hall

Shopping:

– There is one street between Old Times Square and Tyn Church where you can find shops with classic Czech crystal, ceramic figurines and models of the city, handmade puppets, and more. At the end of this street (towards the church) is a great shopping centre too called Paladium. Paladium looks like a beautiful old building, but inside it looks like a fancy mall!

“Street” Food:

– I don’t know if they sell these all year-round, but I know in the winter, they have street vendors with something called “Trdelnik”. Trdelnik actually originally didn’t come from Czech, but it has become famous there. It is a sweet pastry that is rolled in cinnamon and sugar, wrapped around a stick, and grilled. So delicious!

prague

To see:

– The world-renown Prague Philharmonic orchestra is at your fingertips if you’re in the city. I personally have never been to a performance, but I would love to some day! I’m sure they are amazing! (to visit their site about tickets: http://www.praguephilharmonia.com/en/prices.html)

To sit and linger:

– There are lots of amazing places to sit and eat a picnic, but my favorite are the ones that overlook the Vltava river. Pick up some food at a grocery store (like Albert, or Billa), and find one of many lovely parks in Prague. I also love people-watching in these places. People walk their dogs, run with friends, nap under a tree, or sit on the grass.

Things you should know:

– “Dobry den” means “Good day”, and people say it every time they go into a store 

– Bring an umbrella. It often rains in Czech, and can get chilly. You might want to bring a scarf and a coat/jacket too.

– When you’re done eating at a restaurant, place your fork and knife together, side by side (not crossed over each other) on your plate so that the waiters know you are finished. If you don’t do this, the waiters will still come, but not as fast!

– Most people in Prague speak English and will help you if you need anything.

– Public transportation is great, and fairly easy to navigate.

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This travel guide was written by Claire P. Visit her blog here.

*all pictures from Trip Advisor*

A Guide to Frydlant nad Ostravici by Claire P.

guide to frydlant

Dear travelers and dreamers, I’d like to tell you a little bit about two of my favorite cities in the world! The first, of course, is my hometown, Frydlant nad Ostravici, and the second is the wonderful Prague.

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Let’s start with Frydlant. I moved here when I was seven (on my 7th birthday, actually!), and though it’s a small town, there’s a lot to it. We moved here because the headquarters of Josiah Venture (the organization our family works with) is nestled in the beautiful Beskydy Mountains. Why else would you want to visit Frydlant besides Josiah Venture?

Hotel-KAM-Malenovice-28079-b05

Frydlant is located in a valley that sits right under the tallest mountain in the Beskydy. People come here mostly to hike Lysa hora and other surrounding peaks, to get away from the busyness of life. More adventurous people may enjoy the thrill of hang-gliding, a favorite sport around here. For the less daring, there’s also a tiny airport, where you can ride in a little airplane for a breathtaking view of the mountains.

frydlant-nad-ostravici-6de

My favorite places to eat are Merlin and my house. Really, if you come to Frydlant, you can’t miss stopping by my house for a meal! Contact me if you’re ever here in the next 4 months, before I leave for college; I’m serious! If I’m not here to make you tea or coffee, there’s also a cute coffee shop in the centre, called Café de Mare. I would recommend their decadent crepes with nutella, and fresh fruit. Delicious.

Frydlant is perfect because it’s in the mountains, but the third largest city (Ostrava) in the Czech Republic is only 30 minutes away by car, and the second biggest two hours from here. In those cities, there are countless options for shopping, events and cultural experience. But those cities are also smoggy and crowded. Frydlant, on the other hand, stays quaint and quiet!

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Of course, the most beautiful things here are the breathtaking sunsets, the windy nights, the green grass, and the rolling mountains. God created everything so beautiful! I’m thankful to live in a place like this, and He creates something beautiful everywhere. Even your little town is special. You just need to look and keep your eyes open, and your head up!


Keep checking the blog for my travel guide about Prague! To come soon!

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Read Claire’s blog here.

English Class by Claire P.

Classroom

{via Claire’s blog}

Thankfully, my English classes are taught by Americans. Most Czech schools don’t have this privilege! I have actually learned a lot in and through my English classes.

If I think about it, the only things I know about American history, I know from movies, my uncle (he likes to “enlighten” me about my “homeland”), from listening to random conversations, and from my English classes in Czech school. It’s sad how little I know about American history! Ask me about the Premyslovci, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or Communism, and I (hopefully) will have something to say. But ask me about the Alamo or the Civil War, and I won’t be very helpful.

Like I said though, thankfully, I have American teachers! Part of Maturita (a European final exam at the end of high school) is an oral exam in English. We have to talk about all sorts of topics, including some about American culture and history. So I am learning, alongside my Czech classmates! (You should be proud, Uncle Mike!)

Some people might be concerned that I don’t know a lot (don’t worry, I’ve visited many times, and have internet, so I know some!) about my own country. But truth be told, I can’t say that American history feels like my history. On the other hand, Czech history doesn’t feel like my personal history either.

I brought this dilemma up with my dad after seeing the movie Lincoln a little while back. Dad is also a former Missionary Kid, so he understood how I felt! What he told me in response totally altered my thinking about “my” history. He reminded me that my lineage is in Christ. I may not belong fully to one culture or another, but I DO belong to God, and am a part of His family!

In talking about this, Dad referenced Israel. He’s right, when I was there, I felt this truth – my heritage is here! I walked around with such excitement and anticipation, knowing that THIS is where God’s work began. This is where the first Christians were born!

When I realized all these things, I felt so much better. We all love to “belong” somewhere, and as a Missionary Kid, sometimes it’s hard figuring out where you belong! But knowing that my citizenship is in heaven, and that is my eternal home, is so comforting.

I’m thankful my English classes don’t only consist of history, grammar and conversation exercises, but that we also have Bible class once a week.* I love learning about all those other things, but what I love most is learning about God’s history, and understanding who I am through Him.

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.”
– Philippians 3:20 (NLT)
*Side note: BMA is a Christian school, but you don’t have to be a Christian to attend. Its’ high quality language education is what students mostly come here for. If you want to learn more about this, go to BMA’s website!
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this article was written by Claire P. and taken from her blog with permission. visit her blog here.

Language Mishaps Happen by Claire P.

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{via etsy}
I’ve lived in Czech my whole life, and I still make mistakes in the language. I’ve gone to national schools and have Czech friends, but it’s inevitable. Just for giggles, I thought I’d share my latest language mishap, so that you know that it’s ok to still have problems with your second language even after 18 years!

I just started going to “autoskola” (driver’s ed) here, and we were talking about train crossings. I understood everything fine, but I had a question about the flashing lights on the sign before the tracks (an intelligent question, I assure you!). To understand what went wrong, you need to know that we had just been talking about blinkers, which in Czech are called “blinkery” (one of the only words similar to English). There’s a slightly different word for when the blinkers are flashing.

In Czech:
Blinkery= blinkers.
Blikat= flashing.

I wanted to ask a question about the flashing lights, and confused the two words. I ended up combining both words and asked if the lights “blinkat”, which means vomit!! The question then sounded something like: What do I do when the white light is vomiting?

I didn’t realize what I was saying until it came out of my mouth, but thankfully, nobody noticed. I tried to keep a straight face, but couldn’t stop giggling after that, because of how ridiculous the question was. Every time the thought crossed my mind, I cracked a smile, and had to practice some serious self-control to not burst out in laughter in front of my teacher and the whole class.

Oh my, I’ll never know this language completely perfectly, but I guess it’s important to remind myself that it just adds another layer of humor and adventure to an MK’s life!

A {Christmas} Thought to Start Your Week // A Christmas Challenge by Claire P.

If you’ve been reading the Not of this World blog lately, you saw the inspiring “Tell Your Story” posts. Christmas time is the perfect occasion to enter into a conversation with somebody about your “testimony” of faith. Christmas is especially great because you have a chance to tell God’s story clearly. It’s an easy bridge and opportunity to share the Gospel with people around you!

For the past couple of years, my dad has issued a challenge in our family to share Christ with at least one person over the holidays. We then all come back together as a family after Christmas and share how God worked. It’s amazing how God can use that willingness to further His Kingdom!

In fact, two years back, I wrote a letter to one of my best Czech friends explaining who Jesus is, and what His grace means for us. Through many prayers, and countless conversations later, my friend, Kristi, trusted Christ. Since then, she has taken on an important role in ministry in our school, and in our church. She was even baptized a few weeks ago!

{Claire and her friend Kristi after her baptism}

Would you join me in the Christmas Challenge this year? Focus on a couple of people and pray for them regularly. Ask God to give you opportunities to talk to them and for courage to be bold in your faith. Report back after Christmas here, and let us all know how Christ made Himself known to you, and to your friends through this Challenge. I’ll be praying for you all!

“And [I] pray for [you], too. [I] Ask God to give [you] the right words so [you] can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike…. So [I] pray that [you] will keep on speaking boldly for him, as [you] should.”

– Ephesians 6:19-20

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Claire lives in the Czech republic and loves traveling, spending time with her family, making art, and baking. Read her blog here.

Faith in Hardship

Last year, my class and my brother’s class took a trip to Auschwitz, one of the most notorious concentration camps from WWII. This was the first time I’d ever been there, and it was a heavy day. You hear about everything that went on during the war, but to see the place where it all happened with my own eyes was something completely different. There aren’t even words to describe it.

When I got home I started reading a book by Corrie ten Boom called “The Hiding Place”. It’s an incredible book- truthful, sobering, and real.

Corrie was a Dutch Christian, and during the occupation of Holland hid Jews in her own home, and found many other safe places for them. Eventually, her family was arrested in 1944, and her father died 10 days later at Scheveningen prison where they were first held. A sister, brother, and nephew were released, but Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where only Corrie survived.

Reading about Corrie painted a more vivid picture in my mind of what things were really like in concentration camps. I still have a hard time taking it all in. But what I do know is that God’s power is always greater than what we can see. Corrie experienced that in a personal way in unexpected circumstances.

“There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – let us pray that we may always know it!” 

― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

 “When we are powerless to do a thing, it is a great joy that we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus.” 

― Corrie ten Boom

Auschwitz and all the other concentration camps will forever be a reminder of what humans are capable of because of sin. The ten Boom family will forever be a reminder of what God is capable of despite our sin, because He loves us.

 “This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” 

― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 Romans 8:35,37-39 

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Read more from Claire on her blog: Claire’s Corner

The One Who Knows the Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
-Jeremiah 29:11
This verse has been really encouraging to me lately. In many ways and places.
I’m the type of person who likes to have plans. I usually like to know what I’ll be doing today, tomorrow, or even next week. But God doesn’t always work like that. He has His own time schedule. And He does what’s best for me too. I’m the one who is sometimes impatient.
So when I don’t understand which direction I’m headed, it’s challenging. I have to remind myself that
even when I may not see what’s ahead of me very clearly, I do know the One who sees everything.
“This is what the LORD says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.”
-Isaiah 48:17
So I drink tea while I wait on God’s timing.  I need to wait for God to make His plans happen.
Click here to read more from Claire’s blog.