Monday, February 7, 2011

If you've survived 'Snowmaggedon' in the Midwest and are still reading my blog, welcome back! Just to make you a teensy bit jealous, it's been 50 F here for the last three days (about 10 C) with an electric blue sky. I seized advantage of the glorious weather recently to take this picture (and a whole bunch more like it):

For the past week and a half or so, life has been more tiring than expected. In particular, last week only had three days of classes (a break between quarters, and an inservice day, cancelled the other two), and the only grading I had tonight were the 9th grade response questions on Lord of the Flies. So far, my major accomplishment for the evening has been choosing how to abridge the Knight's Tale for the 12th grade class tomorrow and creating an outline for the next Lord of the Flies class (we'll be going over the wise / unwise decisions that characters make). And so I made a decision: I'm going to make this post short and sweet.

A few prayer requests, a cultural story, and I will bid you all a very fond goodnight (and then go much some Disko cookies for dessert):

Last week, I handed each student a yellow piece of cardstock and asked them to jot down a personal prayer request for me to remember. I've been reading through the requests, and I noticed several students thanking me for being willing to pray personally for them. A gratitude like theirs tells me two things: First, that they have good parents who teach them to say "please" and "thank you"! Also, I remember how encouraging it can be to know there is someone who prays specifically for you, someone who is not just praying "God bless Megan in the Czech Republic" but who knows our needs here and brings them before the all-powerful God in prayer.

And so, a couple important requests right at the beginning of the post:
  1. this school desperately needs its own building. Right now, high school kids trek back and forth between two apartments, each about a block away from campus; they also have buildings in the main campus. The distance makes it hard for them to be to class on time, makes it hard for the teachers to set up in their classroom, and divides the community. Also, we cannot pursue accreditation with ACSI until we have our own building.
  2. the relationships between teachers and students (like, me and my students) and then between the students as well. Over the past week or so, I've felt as though I've gotten to know individual students a little better: I raved about Ender's Game with one of my 12th graders and had a mini personal conversation with a 9th grader. I've met a few parents too, including a couple from Idaho and a couple from Canada (the Canadians are always feeling toasty in the Czech Republic; the Canadian science teacher here will wander out into the snow with flip flops). I'm excited, on the one hand, to see these relationshisp grow; on the other, I keep reminding myself to be proactive in the relationships - to reach out to students, not to seem distant. Among the school's top goals is maintaining a close-knit, loving community, and I want to contribute to that community and so let Christ be seen here at CISP.
  3. the 12th grade students, in particular. My student Jessica told me the other day that her family was in the process of purchasing tickets to return to the States this summer - 4 going home, and 3 coming back; she'll be staying Stateside to attend a Christian university. Going off to college is always scary, but it's extra scary for these students, who will be half a world away from their family and in a culture that is basically alien to them (probably if any of them are reading the blog, I've really depressed them now!). Anyhow, do pray that these last five months will prepare them for that transition - academically, socially, spiritually.
And like all my polite students, I thank you for your prayers. :)

Today's post is on the Czech lock system - a very small part of the culture that nevertheless plays a very large role. The Czech locks do not operate like American locks; it is not a simple matter of shoving the key into the lock. No, the Czech lock must be turned over twice to the right, and on the third time turning to the right it finally opens the door. Nor do the Czechs actually have doorknobs; generally, they simply have a door handle, and it is the turning of the key (along with a bit of pushing on the door) that opens the door. In other words, they look like this:

All of this has led to a few rather interesting experiences for me:

Occasionally, the Czech lock system makes it difficult for me to open the door. A few days ago, someone closed (and locked) the door to the staff room in the school, and so when I arrived, I dug out my keys and set to work turning the key in the lock. First I turned it one way, twice. The door didn't open. I turned it the other way, twice again. Still didn't open. Turned it back the first way. No luck. (At this point, I was starting to feel that my M.A. degree would have to be revoked). I jigged the key in the lock a bit, just in case. Nope. Eventually, someone came out from the office (which is inside the staff room) and opened the door for me. I didn't dare shut and lock the staff door after that.

Sometimes, difficulty unlocking a door is entirely the door's fault. My own apartment door (see the picture below) is a case in point.

When we first moved in, the door worked rather worse than most Czech doors. We'd flip it around twice, and then on the third time, we started performing gymnastics. To get the door open, I couldn't simply turn the key around one final time and push. Instead, I had to lay all my things on the floor around me and put both hands on the door key. I had to lean back, so I was pulling the door towards me and to the right. And then (while turning the key all this time), I had to really wiggle the key in the lock - a-WHACK-a-WHACK-a-WHACK-a-WHACK! Sometimes, the door opened at this point (bashing my fingers into the doorjamb at the same time); that's if I was lucky. If I were unlucky, the motion-sensitive light outside the apartment would turn off and leave me in the dark. At this point, I had to take a step backwards and wave my arms (think of those people who direct air traffic on the tarmac) to get the light to turn back on, and then the whole process began again. Since then, the door has been fixed, and I still thank God whenever it opens simply on the third turn.

Finally, the security measures in the Czech Republic are rather different (because there are no doorknobs). A few of our single teachers leave in a flat with a special padlock, a padlock with five bolts. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of that particular lock, so you all just get the story instead: Two of the MKs here in the Czech Republic lived in a guest room in that apartment for six months, attending the school here while their parents worked in the south of the country (the parents have since moved to Prague). The girls were home alone one morning, and a strange guy came and knocked on their door. Being well-trained, they didn't let him in or anything, pretended not to be there, but he came back twice more that day. Later, they had to leave the apartment to go to the grocery store; when they got back, they couldn't fit their key into the lock. It simply wouldn't go in. At that point, they called the police and discovered that someone had put hot wax into the door: the wax molded to the key shape, and so all the burglar would have to do is stick a special tool into the wax and turn it over.

Despite their experiences, though, the locks are pretty safe here. We girls simply leave our key on the inside of the door all night, to prevent possible intruders (it's nearly impossible to get in with the key on the inside of the door). Also, all apartment buildings have an outside door that locks, like this:

and an inside door that locks. If you don't have the key for either door, you don't get in. Feels quite safe, overall.

Thanks for your prayers! I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

  1. Who knew opening doors could be such a feat! We're wishing you well! :)