Wednesdays are my crazy day. The girls all get out of school at different times, they all attend gymnastics at different times, they all attend ceramics at different times, and Mark has a weekly meeting and teaches English in the evening. From 11:40am to 7:30pm I basically ferry people all over Brno and back again, shoving some semblance of a healthy dinner in their mouths while we're in the car. The mom-as-taxi season is upon me.
Today was somewhat easier though because the girls stayed home sick again and the ceramics teacher is also ill--honestly I think a third of the school is home sick. The girls slept in and started their day with "Garfield" in Czech. We tend to watch TV in Czech and also add the subtitles in Czech. This allows us to associate the written and spoken words with one another for better learning.
I had the pleasure of meeting three friends for lunch. These gals and I met on Facebook. One of them, a Czech, asked a FB group I belong to, Brno Expat Women, if someone would be willing to get together with her to speak English so that she could keep up her skills. Well four of us (English, Hungarian-Romanian, Latvian, and me the American) replied and our Czech friend gathered us all together for lunch about a month ago. It's been a weekly date since. I really, really enjoy these ladies. I love hearing about their lives and perspectives. As expats we have a natural bond and all five of us hit it off right away.
I drove to lunch, which was a big mistake. Brno is packed with people during weekdays, making driving on roads congested with trams and pedestrians and parking almost impossible. Interestingly, the center of Brno is a ghost town on the weekends and many shops and restaurants are closed. The nearly 90,000 college students typically take trains home for the weekend and people who work in the center don't frequent it in on the weekend. Moral of the story--only drive in Brno on Saturday and Sunday. Anyway, I snapped some photos while driving (when I was stopped!) so you could see a little more of Brno. You'll notice I am literally driving on the tram tracks, which completely freaked me out when I got here, but it's routine business now. And check out that sunshine!!
Every Wednesday Mark gets together with three other men in ministry to discuss a book that they read together, as well as theology and ministry strategy in Brno. They recently finished Proof by Daniel Montgomery. These guys all serve in very different capacities and each sharpens the others in various ways. They were kind enough to humor my blog efforts and set a selfie-timer on Mark's phone.
Abigail is passionate about gymnastics, so we let her attend this afternoon, as her health was much improved. The system here is so different from the US that it took me about 6 months to get her enrolled. What we’ve found is either quite easy (1 hour, twice a week, which Zoe and Hannah attend) or quite rigorous (3 times a week for 2.5 hours each time plus camps and competitions year-round, which Abby attends). I’m not convinced that this level of commitment is a wise choice for her in the long run, but she’s so enthusiastic we said we’d let her do it for this semester and see how it goes.
This building houses gyms for both gymnastics and basketball. Interestingly they also have a pub/coffee bar inside so you can have a beer while you wait for your kid. I've noticed that all gyms and health clubs here have a full service bar. Cracks me up every time I see it, as I'm just not accustomed to seeing bottles of liquor lined up next to basketballs for use!
This dark hallway is lined with locker rooms and ultimately leads to the gym. It's also lined with signs indicating that only gymnasts are allowed beyond this point. Other signs indicate that parents shouldn't watch the children and the windows to the gym are covered. This is the case at a ballet school that we checked out, as well. It's just not normal for parents to watch their kids participate in their sport--couldn't be more different than American gyms that actually have stadium seating for parents to watch everything! As you can see from my photos, sometimes I bravely buck the system and watch my kids anyway. Another difference in culture here that I may delve into later in the week is that coaches and teachers often use shame to motivate their students. We have many evening chats sorting out what was said by authority figures and what may or may not be beneficial in it.
I've learned that locker rooms are pretty key here. All the kids go to their lessons/activities/whatever in their outdoor clothes and then change into the appropriate clothing in the locker room. Both genders, as well as adults, are welcome in the kids' locker room. Abby still behaves like an American and goes to the gym in her gymnastic clothes and only puts her shoes and coat in the locker.
We’ve received exactly opposite advice from Abby’s American and Czech doctors regarding her scoliosis. Czech wisdom says rigorous gymnastics is a no-go for scoliosis sufferers--they don’t want her jumping on hard surfaces, no flipping, etc. But her American doctors say to go for it with zero limitations. They say the sport will help develop her muscles, allow her to have some normalcy (in-spite of her wearing a full-torso brace at all other times), and it won’t actually influence the natural curve of her back. We go with the American docs’ advice, but I do often second-guess myself. Motherhood is all about needing wisdom!
Mark teaches English every Wednesday night. They spend some time on grammar and conversation and conclude with a Bible lesson. Each week Mark laments how tough it is to communicate deep spiritual truths with limited language abilities. It’s been so rewarding, though, to see the great interest and enthusiasm of his students for both English and Biblical understanding.
Before I conclude day 4 I want to mention that Mark wrote a fabulous blog on fatherhood today, that you might want to checkout. You who are reading this are truly sweet friends and family. Not pictured is us doing Czech homework and laundry--I do have (some) standards for what you people have to suffer through! Goodnight, dear ones!