For two weeks since my last blog post, we have traveled to the Czech Republic and Poland and participated in an English Language Camp along with our home church in Grand Forks and our partner church in Olomouc, CR. We also spent three nights in Kraków, Poland following our time in Czech. And while we were in Kraków, we spent the better part of a whole day traveling to and from and touring the Auschwitz and Birkenau Nazi concentration camps. I am not going to try to squeeze all of these experiences into one blog post, but I will talk about these separately. Today’s will focus on the Czech part of our two-week journey.
Paul and I did not initially plan on taking part in this year’s English Camp in Czech. We had lead the team last year, and there has usually been a span of three years lately between our trips there. But, several stars aligned, if you will, and we decided to go this year. We joined up with the rest of our team of eight in Olomouc, CR one day following their arrival. My use of the Czech language was decidedly more rusty than in past years–mostly due to my ‘little grey cells’ being stretched as of late with having to speak and understand Norwegian! It was quite funny, really, to be trying to speak Czech with someone, and random Norwegian would come out of my mouth. Oh, well. It did disappear after the 11 days we were there.
It has always been great to reconnect with our dear friends from the Olomouc Baptist Church, some of whom we have known for 20 years. In that time span children have become adults, adults have gotten married and started families, and the church has grown and is now in the process of renovating their very own church building!
This year’s camp was again at Hotel Neptun near the mountain village of Mala Moravka about an hour and a half bus ride from Olomouc. There were a total of 79 campers, and when I say ‘campers’, that includes children, teens, adults, seniors, the American Team, the Czech Team. We each taught or co-taught a level of English to a specific group along with a reading comprehension aspect using the Bible as text. Also, we facilitated a daily conversation group of between 6-8 people. There was a little afternoon free time, very little, as we lead optional workshops on various subjects that each camper could sign up to attend. Derek and I held an ‘International Food Demo’ one afternoon where we prepared three international party foods: Kremkaker (Norway), Tzatziki (Turkey), and 7-Layer Tex-Mex Dip (USA). I channeled my inner Julia Child that day when several things went a bit “off script” and we all just laughed and went with the flow. Everyone was able to taste a bit of our dishes. Other workshops included “The Man Cave”-Paul’s discussion group for men only, “English Pronunciation” by Rebekah, our resident Speech Therapist, and “Let’s Dance”, a video-led dance-a-thon which took the place of Alyssa’s “Ultimate Frisbee” due to unexpected rain.
Evening activites included worship songs, testimonies, group games, a bonfire with s’mores and the delightful Czech sausage ‘Specacky’, a Talent Show, and the Graduation Night group skits. To show our support for Talent Night, Paul and I, along with the ever-enthusiastic eemcees for the show, Alyssa and Rebekah, lip-synced to ABBA’s ‘Take a Chance on Me”. Wow. What Paul won’t do for his stage-struck wife.
Our days are long, getting up at 6:30 am and usually getting to bed around midnight, and the week seems to fly by after the first day or so. After checking out on Friday, there were two optional trips planned for those who were interested: several hours in the spa town of Karlova Studanka or a hike in the woods to a waterfall. Due to my knee not being at its best, I chose the spa visit. There were ten of us walking through the picturesque town, seeing a small waterfall of our own, stopping for the requisite coffee and cake break, and having lunch before we caught the bus back to Olomouc.
The next day, my dear friend, Dafne, hosted Paul, I, Ilene, and her son, Jonas, for a delicious lunch at “818 Restaurant”, a Chinese restaurant on the 18th floor of the tallest building in Olomouc. I had Jonas in one of my English classes many years ago, so it was especially sweet visiting with him now. Dafne also prepared homemade apple strudel for Paul..with his name baked right in.
Our team attended church at the Olomouc Baptist Church the following morning, and, afterwards, visited with everyone over pizza and coffee at Hrava Kava. Goodbyes are never enjoyable, but I prefer to say ‘see you later’ rather than goodbye. The situation may not be any different, but it sounds a bit more hopeful that way. Paul and I certainly hope to return to Olomouc again, although we do not know when that may be.
Next post: on to Kraków.