Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two Things Thursday

We're presently living in temporary quarters in JFK's Terminal 2.  I'd like to say we're here for a short time, but so far we're pushing 5 hours.  With a 9" snow predicted for New York, I'd like to leave tonight, rather than extend my stay.  Although I have to say that life in our humble space between 8 seats across from the Terminal 4 Shuttle at gate 19 is pleasant for the most part.  There's a Starbucks on the corner and a Wendy's around the block.  The good folks at Delta have installed a wonderful kid's playland that also doubles as a carry-on control device.  We have a large front yard, but traffic can be heavy depending on incoming flights or elderly folks whisking from one gate to another in the beeper car.

Cooper is making friends at every turn.  But that seems to be his forte... I'm consistently amazed at his love for people; kids especially.  He hasn't quite mastered the concept of personal space.  This means he lovingly chest-bumps any new kid he meets and will probably add a deafening screech in to emphasize his enduring friendship.  Cooper thinks any child in his size/height range is the best friend he's had in his whole life.  (This may also include his reflection in any mirror or darkened glass.)

On the flight from Prague, we were a bit apprehensive.  He's mobile and daring.  He's conquered escalators and moving sidewalks.  He's got balance and style to spare.  We only had two seats in economy.  We needed a bounce house.  I considered making a blanket apology after the safety announcement.   

"On behalf of 11 month-olds everywhere, I would like to offer my sincere apology for whatever may issue forth from row 29.  To the the bald guy in row 28, you should've worn a hat.  Thank you."

But he did great.  He charmed the socks off the flight attendants, getting us extra drinks and ice cream (on the off-chance he was into dairy products... he's not, but we sure are).  The grandparents in front of us thought he was krásný.

He missed a nap when the duty-free cart went noisily by, but we worked through it later after the second snack time.  Cooper's currently conked out in his stroller, though I'm not sure how considering flight 65-something to Seattle is delayed due to a late crew and we needed to know that info at the approximate volume of a Mick Jagger arena howl. 

Guess this is what a studio apartment feels like in the Big Apple!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vaclav's House

For the past three months we've lived in a palace (it's the one on the left).

Now, before you get too excited, know that  anything that housed nobility could be considered as such.  Our building was constructed in the 17th century for Vaclav Budovec.  Born in 1551, he was part of the Czech Estates, the leading class of the time.  A Protestant, he led the revolt against Catholicism and the Hapsburg monarchy in the Czech land and was part of the event that precipitated the 30 Year's War.  After the decisive Battle of White Mountain that effectively crushed any further Protestant rebellion, Budovec was executed along with 27 other nobles just steps away from his front door on Old Town Square.  Today, there are crosses on the Square to commemorate their sacrifice as well as a very nice statue of Budovec on the wall of his house.

Within his compound is a family chapel that our church uses today for services.  We live in an apartment the church rents on the second floor, overlooking the courtyard.  Throughout the day, we hear the bells from Tyn Church on the Square and the rumble of tourists rushing through the tiny streets around us.  This is what makes Europe, and Prague in particular, so amazing.  We didn't just see historical places, we lived in them.  The Czechs take great pride in their history and the physical representations of it (as well they should, the tourism revenue it generates is enormous).  But they don't "put it on a shelf" and hide it away, they put it to use in everyday life.

Jump over to our Facebook Album to see more of our place.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ceska zbrojovka

Some of you may remember when I purchased a pistol last year.  Since then I've looked for a polymer frame piece to go with my all-metal Hi-Power.  I still wanted that tactical style pistol that I could put a laser or tac-light onto.  

In my research, I ran across CZUB and found my next piece.  Originating in the Czech Republic, the CZUB brand has been around since the 30s and is responsible for the CZ-75, probably the most widely used sidearm in communist nations.  While hidden behind the Iron Curtain, the 75 wasn't available to the western world and developed a bit of mystique as a result.  Having a gun designed and built in the Old Country where Suzi's family still lives would be an absolute bonus.

Today CZUB is privatized and has shed its state-mandated production of tractor parts and aircraft engines to focus on creating solid firearms for hunting, competition and law enforcement/ military markets.  Ironically, since 1998, the US subsidiary is based in Kansas City, MO... just a quick hop down I-70.

While here in Prague, I dragged Jaromir & Suzi to visit the CZUB gunshop, located in an unassuming building just across from the main train station.  Walking through the front doors drops you into a world of forest-green field jackets, tactical gear & German hunting hats.  Around the cash desk and through a set of massive steel doors takes you into a gun nut's paradise.  I've been to the store twice.  Both times I'm nearly breathless when I walk into the vault.  The beauty of the intricately engraved rifles in elaborate displays contrasts sharply with the heavy, black pistols of the vaunted 75 lineup stacked along one wall.

My choice walking in the door was the SP-01 Phantom, but after a few minutes with the P-07 Duty, my allegiance shifted.  A well balanced polymer frame, nice grip, decocker or manual safety options included & 16 round mags... I'm sold.  While I couldn't pick one up here, I see a trip to KC in my near future!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


My parents are in Europe with us.  After nearly two weeks, they leave on Monday. 

It's been a whirlwind trip.

And why does it seem that I always use that word to describe my family's events?  Why can't we have leisurely stroll.  Or a drawn-out holiday?  Or lazy-hazy-days-of-summer kinda thing?

'Cause that's not how we do things 'round here.  We pack it to the gills and then ask for a take-out bag to make sure we didn't miss one iota.  Gotta tell ya'... my feet hurt.  And in fact we ran 'em so hard, the parents took Saturday and Sunday off to recoup.  (Although Mom & Charles did do some shopping and a little marionette theater, but that was like a nap in comparison.)  At the end of one day, I casually mentioned, purely tongue-in-cheek, that we had another hour of walking to do before going home.  Mom collapsed against a wall and cried out, "One MORE HOUR!?!"  I took it to mean she was done for the day.  But, hey, it's a walking city and you gotta move to see it.

Since they arrived last Wednesday, we've covered a lot of ground in Prague and spent three nights in Vienna.  It's been a bit hair-raising, but we got the job done, and they've seen some of Europe.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Two Things Thursday

Wisdom and Iveta live in Prague 8.  He's from Ghana and she's Czech.  Iveta was three when the family moved into this building in 1968.  When she and Wisdom got together, he introduced her family to African cuisine.  In the classic melding of cultures, these Czechs learned to eat fufu with their hands (and swallow it without chewing in the traditional fashion).  So, when we were invited for dinner, it was only fitting that we'd make a culinary journey to Africa while sitting on the 11th floor of a Czech panelákGood stuff; although I had to chew a few times before swallowing... instinct is hard to overcome even when culturally faux pas.

On March 8th, International Women's Day is celebrated around the world to give recognition to the importance of women in society.  The event began as a Socialistic political event in America in 1909 and was later adopted by many Soviet bloc nations as an official holiday in 1965.  The UN adopted March 8th as holiday in 1977.

In the Czech Republic there were huge political rallies on March 8th during Communist years.  Once the Wall fell, the event lost a lot of popularity due to it's connection to the previous regime.  While re-instituted in later years (ironically, by communist political parties), it doesn't hold the same impact as before and most of the younger generations pay no attention to it.

Whatever the case, a chance to buy flowers for Suz is enough reason for me to celebrate...

Friday, March 4, 2011

SUZI: Storms on Your Road

Scott and I lived in Chicago for about 2 ½ years.  We traveled home to Missouri for most major holidays and a few of the minor ones too.  Many of our three day weekends were spent on the road.  While no one loves a good road trip more than we do, there was always something that took a bit of the joy out of it:  the weather.  It stormed or snowed every time we drove home.  Literally.  I know you think I’m exaggerating.  I wish I were.  I don’t know how it is possible, but every time we made that 7 hour trek to MO, the sky opened up and let out either torrential rains or blinding snow storms.  Plus we were always driving in the dark because we left after work.

I remember inching through snow storms on Hwy 55 in central Illinois, not even being able to see the lines on the road.  Cars were scattered in the ditches, and we kept plugging ahead.  I recall pulling to the side of the road as buckets of rain poured on us.  Or the time that the wind was so strong that debris was flying sideways against our car.

I don’t know if it was the landscape or the time or an evil plot from the universe, but we always had bad weather.

One summer day after we were already tired from a long day of commuting and work, we hit the road.  As we headed out of Chicago, we noticed the skies were turning awfully dark.  The clouds were somersaulting above us, and I wasn’t happy about it.  “Lord, I am so tired.  It would be so nice if for this one time we could have nice weather to go home.  I’m just so tired today,” I remember quietly praying.

A few minutes later I realized that there were storm clouds off in the distance to our left and to our right.  We could see the lightening and rain in the distance, but there was nothing falling on us.  Not a drop.  It was as if we were driving through the divided Red Sea; the clouds were literally divided right down the middle.  Moses was holding up his staff, and we were going through on dry ground!

I actually wouldn’t even believe it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.  Chance?  Maybe.  Grace in time of need?  More likely.  Because that’s the kind of God we serve.  He knows when we need a break, and His kindness to us ministers just when we need it! 

(And that’s the only time we ever had nice weather driving home!)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Two Things Thursday

We have 28 days left in Prague.

It's crazy how quickly the past 60 days have dissolved into the ether of our years (Jaime, can you tell it's late?).  But, we're trying to get in as much time as possible while we're here. Up until recently, it's been just too cold to have Cooper out for very long, much less the two of us.  The sun's come out and the wind's not too bitter, so we've been cruising about as a family.  This week there's a Bohemian Carnival going on in the city.  Someone told me it had been going on since the 18th century, but who knows for sure.  It seems the carnival in our neighborhood consists of a small stage, a few folks in period costume and some food vendors.

What I can attest to is the absolute scandal of a food vendor on Old Town Square.  The smell of wood smoke and slowly roasting pork is almost too much to pass up... even for 89Ck for 100 grams with a piece of bread on the side.  But, we were in for the full experience so we placed an order for two plates.  The price came back at 425Ck! That's nearly $25!  Suzi asked twice in Czech and once in English to make sure and then I burst out laughing.  There was no way... no self-respecting townie would pay those prices.  Why the difference?  It's 89Ck per 100 grams... and the guy cutting the meat just whacks off whatever he feels.  Needless to say we got one small plate.  And I gotta admit... I'd probably pass it up for Dad's spiral-cut,  funeral ham.

The redeeming factor of the day was the juggling act who had a great time whirling knives and flaming torches and engaging the hapless maids and gentlemen of the audience.  Unfortunately, the first time we stopped to see him, Cooper got totally freaked out... like silent-scream-style... and we had to leave.  I came back and caught another act while they took a walk through town.

A couple of nights ago, Jaromir and Misa stopped by with some salmon they'd been harboring in the freezer.  None of our freezers are big enough as it is, but when he rolled out a full-blown fish (not some fillet!) I understood why they wanted it gone!  Curry potatoes and spinach were on the side and we ate well.  With good friends.  As it should be.