Today was kind of momentous for us even though it never feels that way when you’re in a government office in the Czech Republic. Our two year visas were approved! Our friend, Katka, got a call last week saying the paperwork went through and that we needed to go back and do photos and fingerprints. Today we went to the Foreign Police and signed a bunch of papers, took photos, and gave them our fingerprints. I didn’t feel as comfortable trying to capture everything on my iPhone today, so I only have the one photo you see above. All in all, the process was smoothe and the kids did good getting their photos taken. We’ll go back on the 19th to retrieve our new “Biometric” cards which serve as our permit for residence!
For doing a good job at the Foreign Police we told the kids they could get hot chocolate at a nearby cafe afterwards. Above is a photo of them waiting together at the cafe.
Around sunset we decided to go for a little mini hike up around the big Josiah Venture hotel/training. Since my class last week, I have wanted to take Bethan and the kids up there to show them the snow and see the view. The sun was shining a lot today which was awesome, so we tried to catch a little of the sunset tonight. There were a few clouds so we couldn’t see it perfectly, but we had a great time together as a family in the freezing cold.
The temps were in the 20s so things were icy, but the kids thought it was hilarious when their feet would give out while we were holding their hands and walking. We didn’t walk a super long time, but we laughed and enjoyed our time together. In fact, the more I think about it the more I feel like it was special. We were just walking up and down a little hill, but the kids were happy, Bethany was happy, and I was happy. We were having a fun time together and it was devoid of distraction or trying to rush to the next thing.
It’s late and we have language lessons in the morning which I’m really excited about. It’s been a few weeks since we have had any formal instruction. Bethany and I have been working harder this week to review our vocabulary and do whatever kind of studying that we can on our own. I even started a new little “Field Notes” notebook of Czech words that I want to know or understand better. It was a tool they taught us to use at language school in the States and I’m excited to engage it more. Some how, some way, I am going to learn Czech! Pray for us.
Unbelievably we’ve already been here long enough to begin processing another round of visa applications. Our first set of visas are for six months so technically they don’t expire until the end of January. But with all the holidays and time it takes to process things here we have to get started earlier to make sure there are no hangups. Today we spent most of the afternoon just going through the paperwork and trying to make sure we have got all the information correct. These new visas will be good for two years and give us simpler identification (something other than our passport). We’ll be working this week with the team here to help get it all moving forward. Most likely we’ll be headed to the Foreign Police in the next couple days to begin processing them so that’s a point of prayer for us this week.
When we were at missionary training last year, one of the language teachers said, “In order to learn a language you have to be willing to make a million mistakes, so start now!” Today I took that instruction and butchered Czech about as much as humanly possible. I had a conversation today with our landlord about the light not working in our garage. I felt terrible because I couldn’t understand much, but basically she was trying to tell me that she got it fixed and that the light was actually on now and we needed to turn it off. This took me about four minutes of conversation with her until she finally just pointed for me to come outside with her and she showed me the light. I remember asking her “why” and just getting a blank stare. Who knows what I was asking her because I sure don’t!
Then tonight at the grocery store Avery left her Hello Kitty coloring book in the store and we didn’t realize it until we got home. Titus and I went back for it and I was trying to explain to two different store clerks that this was my daughter’s book and I wanted them to know that before I walked out of the store with it. What they were understanding from me was that my daughter had left a book like the one I was holding and that they didn’t have it. Finally we had to walk over to where I found the book and try using my phone to translate the whole thing and when something finally clicked they just started laughing. Thankfully, they did understand and were very gracious, but that doesn’t change the painful interchange that went on for ten minutes. Only 980,854 mistakes left to make before I learn Czech!
On a parenting note, a friend from the States asked me yesterday on the phone about Titus and how he was doing. It was a timely question because I’ve been thinking a lot about Titus lately. As a dad, especially one of a boy, I’m really trying to process how to be intentional with Titus and train him well. Yesterday before the party I asked him to help me take the recycling out. He was really excited and carried “the big box” down the street all by himself. It may have only been a few minutes of time but I was really enjoying watching him grow and mature, even in things like helping with work. Lately Titus has been showing a lot of mature answers to questions and really starting to put things together. We see him asking lots of questions and just engaging more. It’s fun to watch him change and grow.
Tonight after we got Avery’s book at the store, Titus and I had a funny little conversation in the car which I sent out on Twitter. Here’s how it went:
As early as we could get everyone out of the house today we loaded our van and headed to Ostrava to try a second time to register our short-term visas. I shared yesterday that we tried and failed because the office was closed, but today we made it to the “foreign police” office during business hours. Going to any kind of government office is difficult, but add to the that the newness and a language barrier and you’ll feel your heart rate go up just driving there. Admittedly, I was a bit anxious this morning. Yes, I know what Philippians 4:6 says and Bethany did a good job reminding me of that in the car on the way over. I have no excuse for my sin but I’ll admit that I was a bit on edge.
God graciously provided a nice clerk who helped us and the process went pretty smooth. The man behind the glass spoke a little English, I spoke Czech-lish, my translation app on my iPhone spoke Czech and together all three of us made it work. In the end we got the head nod of approval but honestly I don’t really know what exactly we did there. All we were told was that we needed go to the foreign police to “register our visas” and I guess that’s what we did? Only the Lord really knows that’s fine with me.
Check out this photo below. The clerk at the foreign police had a “Don’t mess with Texas” sticker on his coffee thermos. I laughed out loud (quietly, of course… you don’t want to make a scene in a government office). Even in the middle of Europe you can’t escape Texas pride.
I shared earlier this week that we have begun potty training Avery. Well tonight we had a bit of a celebration because Avery was able to make it all the way to the potty for the first time without having an accident (translation: she went “pee pee” on the potty)! I was on my computer working in another room when I heard Bethany screaming and clapping and then I heard Avery say, “I did it!” in her tiny little voice. We’re super encouraged by her progress and hope that life beyond the diaper is on the horizon.
Besides that we had another successful language lesson and we’re learning how to tell time. You feel like you’re in the first grade when our teacher has a clock out, shows you a time and you’re supposed to repeat it back in Czech. It’s so funny to listen to us butcher the language and try to say “9:00 o’clock” in our slow, broken Czech. Maybe I’ll just never tell anyone what time it is?
We were pretty excited to leave this morning for Bratislava, Slovakia because we knew our short-term visas were ready and waiting for us. We left our place about 8am and got to where the Czech embassy is around noon, grabbed some lunch, and got to the embassy for our 1:30pm time slot. I had the insurance paperwork ready, our passports, and the kids were doing pretty great considering the long drive this morning. Once we handed over all the documents we were just waiting around the lobby of the embassy. After about 15 minutes the lady came back to the window and said, “I’m sorry sir, but only 2 of your visas are ready… the kids aren’t done yet and won’t be until another day.” That’s one of those “Alright!” but… “Bummer…” moments. Two of our visas are approved, praise God! This is such an answer to prayer! The only bummer is now we have to wait and see what’s going on with the kids’ visas and then make another trip down to Bratislava (it will be our third) to pick those up when and if they’re ready. So it’s great news and a little disappointing news, but we’re thankful to be halfway done with this process. Here’s a picture of us waiting in the embassy:
Speaking of embassies, for some reason Avery got really excited today to see the American flag. I saw her running around our apartment the other day with a few small ones we had in a box, so I assume she’s just associating that with the big flag on the American embassy that she saw today. It was funny to watch her get so excited. Here’s a little picture of her during that moment and if you look between the trees you’ll see the American flag and embassy.
Having to return to Bratislava for anything really isn’t that much of a disappointment. The city is beautiful and the old town square area is a piece of history. Walking around the by the shops and restaurants is super fun and the weather was amazing there today so it was just nice to be outside. Bethany and I were talking this afternoon that we just don’t build downtown areas like they do here in Europe. Bratislava is spacious, lots of walking room, tons of benches to relax on, and numerous trees for shade.
Except everywhere you look some has an ice cream cone. I guess the only way they get away with all this ice cream intake is because they all walk everywhere. And there’s only so much ice cream watching you can do before you dive in yourself. We hit the little ice cream shop across from the embassy and Avery immediately went for the large cone outside. It was a really fun place and there were a lot of people hanging around so you knew it had to be good. It wasn’t just good, it was delicious and a fun little treat for all of us.
Our trip home was close to 4 hours. From start to finish it was a 10 hour day, with around 7-8 of that in the car. We actually drove the Slovakian route today which took us by some amazing castles. It was hard to get good photos on our phones, and I forgot my camera, but here’s a few shots for you to try to imagine these castle ruins that sat on top of a few different hills. I seriously want to know how old these places are.
We praise the Lord for his grace in allowing such a relatively smooth process in getting our visas approved. Lord willing our kids’ will be approved soon and we’ll head back down to Bratislava pick them up. Now that we have these we finally transfer some of our utilities to our name and even feel a little more settled here. Please continue to pray with us for the rest of this process and our continued transition to life in Czech Republic.
We actually had a great day. Some friends of ours offered to get us a hotel in Bratislava because we had a very early appointment at the Czech embassy and the embassy is about 4 hours from where we live in Czech. So we got great rest last night and the hotel provided breakfast so things were going good.
Bratislava is a beautiful city, especially in the downtown area. There are a few embassies right in the center of town (including the USA!) and we trekked our way by some incredible buildings. We got to the embassy on time and we had all of our paperwork in order so it went smoothly. Of course we had our good friend Jitka who could help us translate just in case. The lady at the embassy was actually very familiar with Josiah Venture missionaries, so it made the whole process roll along just fine. Start to finish it was about an hour of time and we were on way to make the 4 hour drive home. It’s a lot of work for such a short amount of actual work time, but visas are vital to our ability to work, live, and do ministry here so you really don’t think about the trouble to make it happen.
We lingered around the town square for a little while after the embassy because there was a small playground for kids and even a McDonald’s where were grabbed something to drink. It was fun to people watch because there were a number of tour groups for all parts of the world making their way through the square. I even caught a picture of a man laying down and praying just outside of McDonald’s (photo below).
Shortly after Bethany took the photo below of the beautiful sunflower fields, we got pulled to the side of the road by the Slovakian police. Everyone was actually getting stopped. It was kind of like a police check point that they built on the highway today to make sure everyone had the right licenses, permits, and things like that. I had no idea we would actually be stopped and then pulled to the side of the road. I thought we would be waved through just like most of the other cars, but then the police man said something to men in Slovak which I just stared at him blankly and that’s when Jitka started talking to him from the back seat (Slovak and Czech are very similar languages, so they can speak to each other pretty well).
Basically what happened was we didn’t have a Slovak driving sticker for our car and we were driving in Slovakia. We really had no clue that we needed that thing and were really nervous. Jitka talk to the guy for a while and finally we had to drive to the next town, get Euros out of the ATM, then drive back to the freeway check point and literally (and I’m serious here) walk onto the freeway and pay the police in the middle of the highway. If you can imagine walking on the 5 freeway and paying for a ticket–that’s what it was like. He lowered the ticket price for us, which was a blessing, but we definitely learned a lesson: get the right permits when you drive to another country. Lesson learned.
Our little law breaking moment made us hungry so we opted for a little taste of America: KFC. By God’s grace the rest of our trip was pretty uneventful and for that we’re thankful. Our new car did great, the kids did well, and now we’ll just wait to hear back about our visas. Tomorrow our appliances we will be delivered, and if all goes well our shipping container should be here Thursday. Lots going on this week, but God gives us enough grace for every day…even when we break the law by accident.