T.

Trying to Escape the Heat

It’s really hot right now. According to a Czech news Web site, we’re experiencing some of the hottest days on record in Czech Republic. That wouldn’t be a problem except for one big factor: no air conditioning.

Now I want to make sure I’m really careful about what I say and how I say it. I know, for instance, of missionaries who live in intense heat all year round. They have to live with constant warm air in their house with very little relief. That is not the case for us whatsoever. To those friends and missionaries that serve in unbearable heat week in an week out, God bless your ministry. I mean it. Just little taste of the heat this past week is reminding me to think and pray for you, wherever you may be. That being said, I do want to comment on what we’ve been trying to do to escape this heat.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

Our apartment just holds heat in. With concrete walls and no air conditioning, we’re just stuck trying to get air to move through the house. Over the weekend we just couldn’t do it anymore and decided we were leaving town to a large mall in Poland to find some AC. On Saturday we basically the entire day there, walking around, eating meals and letting the kids play in the air conditioned play area. Judging by the number people there I think they all had the same idea we did. Above is a photo I got of Karis while Bethany looked around one of the Polish stores.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

When we got to the mall, the first place we decided to go was to Pizza Hut (shown above). For you American readers, you’re going to have to lay aside all your preconceived notions of what Pizza Hut is and allow me to tell you about Pizza Hut in Poland. To compare it, it’s more like California Pizza Kitchen. It’s a fancy, sit-down, restaurant (at least this one was). We had heard they were nice, but we were shocked. They had waiters, lots of salads and pasta on the menu, and really good pizza! We all ordered pan pizza, except for Titus because he wanted spaghetti. Everything tasted it great and we even decided to go for the Chocolate Chip cookie dessert which was an oversized cookie with vanilla ice cream on top. It was a lot of fun and here’s a picture of Avery’s pizza.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

After food we did some shopping and eventually grabbed some coffee. The mall we went to is huge and we eventually made our way to the kids play area. You pay a few bucks for an hour of play time and they have staff there to help the kids and there’s a ton for them to do. Why America hasn’t jumped on this money making machine is beyond me. I sat and read a book while the kids played and Bethany did a little shopping with Karis. Here’s a photo of Titus with the playground behind him.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

Since we were going all American on the food we decided for an American class, Burger King, for dinner. We wanted to get the food to go and head to the hardware store to look at little air conditioning units. Titus went with me to order the food and we got those Burger King crowns which I wore through the mall with Titus all the way back to the car. At points their were Polish people tapping each other on the shoulders and pointing at me because I’m sure I looked ridiculous. Bethany and the girls were in the car and when we got there Bethany was just laughing at me and said, “You’re a good daddy.” Thanks, babe. I’m sure you were laughing WITH me and not AT me.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

We tried six different stores to find a little air conditioning unit that was both powerful and affordable. This is no easy task in a place that doesn’t really have AC. What we ended up finding and buying was a little unit that was around $160 (US) that we currently have sitting in our window sill. It’s a swamp cooler that uses water to cool down the room and it’s been a pretty big help the past few nights. Here’s a photo of it in the store (the price on the side is in Polish currency). I’m calling it R2-D2.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

The next day we basically did the same routine, only this time we went to a Czech mall instead of Poland. Essentially all we did was go there for lunch, walk around, and let the kids play. There was a bench near the kids area with Ronald McDonalds so I took a little photo of the kids next to him. Quite honestly I’m a little jealous that Ronald gets to sit there all day, enjoying the air conditioning looking all happy.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

We’re trying to have a positive attitude, but it’s been rough. Right now I’m sweating, we have six fans running, and we’re sleeping in the living room because it’s just too hot in the bedroom. Every time I get hot I just go and take a cold shower which really does help. The weather is supposed to be like this for at least the next week so we’re buckling up for more heat. If you think of it, pray for us, especially our kids. It’s hard to sleep when you’re sweaty and hot and we’re all trying to just make it through until cooler air comes our way.

O.

Our First Snow Day in Czech

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

Like a little child waiting for Christmas, I have been waiting for our first snow day in Czech. Today was that day, and it was beautiful. Bethany grew up with snow in central Washington, but being a child of southern California I didn’t see many snow days. There were a couple of them, but they were definitely few and far between.

Today’s snow didn’t really pick up until around 2:00pm, and we really needed to head to another town and do a few errands. After checking the weather forecast, we decided to take our chances and left early this morning for the mall that’s about 40 minutes away. One thing we needed was a cordless phone so we could connect our Internet phone which will allow us to make calls to the States. We ended up finding the perfect phone at a great price at the first place we looked. In celebration, and because our friends gave us a gift card, we headed over to Starbucks.

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

Much to our surprise, the Czech baristas wrote “Have a nice day” on our cup…in English! That and the drink we were a nice little treat. From where we were sitting in the mall we could see the snow starting to come down outside, so I wanted to make sure didn’t linger too long. Our next stop was the mall play place. Titus and Avery have mental maps of every mall we have ever visited with precision GPS that can guide them there so we really had no way out of that. This mall’s play place was actually new to us, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. One thing they had was this giant, 2-story twisty slide. Titus was too scared in the beginning to go down it, but Annie Oakley Avery had no problem climbing the stairs and shooting down the tube. Below is a video that Avery took while sliding all the way down. You’ll notice the little Czech boys in front of her trying to talk to her.

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

Eventually, Avery convinced Titus that the tube was “a slow slide” and he went down. Here they are going down together. You can see Titus leaning on his back (probably because he was nervous) and Avery is all smiles as they make their way down.

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

It’s always worth mentioning just how kid friendly Czech is. We went into multiple stores today that had little kid activity tables. Here’s a photo at the grocery store (yes, the grocery store!) that had a little Lego table. I played with the kids for a bit while Bethany grabbed a few items. As an aside, you’ll often find grocery stores inside the mall in Czech, and this one was no different–it’s actually quite convenient!

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

The snow had been coming down, but wasn’t really sticking much until about the time we were leaving the mall. Here’s a photo of us walking back to the car and it was just starting to come down harder. When we got to our car, there was just a thin layer on it.

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

Right as we were arriving home, the snow really began to come down and was sticking. The kids had fallen asleep in the car but we managed to get them inside and lay them on their beds without really waking them up. As soon as we were settled, I grabbed my camera and took a few photos along with a slow motion video of the scene. Here’s a little 16 second video I got that I added some music to. The church next to our place looked so incredible as the snow was falling.

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

This afternoon I setup our new phone and ended up talking to my mom in the States for a while which was a real blessing. It was just morning time for her so we chatted as I watched the snow continue to fall outside. When the kids woke up from their nap we got excited about going outside to play. Bethany had called her parents on the phone too and then we ended up video chatting with them, so they were able to watch us playing outside via the computer. Bethany held the computer by the window as we threw snowballs and made snow angels in the yard. I think I had just as much fun as the kids, and it was a real joy to just play with them. Here’s some photos from our time.

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

Avery had gotten a little cold and went back inside before I could get a photo of the three of us. But here’s Titus and me before we went back inside too. Yeah, I was excited.

Saturday and Snow (1/24/15)

I truly praise God that our first snow day came on a Saturday where I could spend it with my family. Just seeing Titus’ face and hearing him laugh when we were throwing snowballs at each other will be etched in my mind for many years to come. Watching Avery do her best to build a little snow man with the dry snow was cute and special. But even more than that, one thing I noticed today was how beautiful Czech looked. Even some of the grungier parts of the city were covered in white, perfect snow. That, of course, reminded me of the gospel and the great hymn “Jesus Paid It All.” All the grungy parts of my life–my sin–are covered by the sacrifice of Christ, and now I’m washed, “white as snow.” Praise the Lord for His amazing kindness and grace towards me.

A.

A Reunion With Friends

I slept for eight hours last night. That’s a rare feat, especially this week when I was averaging around five of six. It was so nice to sleep in a bit today and Bethany blessed the whole family with another round of Swedish pancakes this morning. After breakfast we picked up Cory and Kristine Cramer (and baby Shiloh) and headed for the Ostrava mall. They have been in Czech this past week for the conference and are waiting on Kristine’s parents to finish up some meetings here so they can spend time together with them in Prague early next week. Life in Albania is much different than here in Czech, and I think going to the mall here was really relaxing for them.

At the mall we met up with Daniel Reimer and Jenny and Landen Llamas. Daniel and I work together on the JV Creative Communications team and Jenny and Landen literally just moved here a few weeks ago, but we have known them for some time now. We all had a fun time shopping and hanging out and even enjoyed an extended lunch this afternoon at a place in the mall. After lunch we all got a photo together. As we were taking the photo I was thinking to myself that it felt familiar. It wasn’t until later that night that Cory and Kristine realized we had taken a similar photo almost a year ago. Upon a little checking on Instagram I realized that it was almost exactly a year ago to the date that we all took a photo. Here’s the photos:

This first one was on October 1, 2013. We all had dinner together (minus Daniel) in Santa Clarita, California.

Reunion (9/27/14)

And here’s the photo from today (with Daniel now) in Czech Republic and it’s almost exactly one year later. Isn’t that awesome?!

Reunion (9/27/14)

While at lunch there was a helicopter literally hovering outside of the window where we were eating. The restaurant is on an upper level and outside some medical guys were doing drills jumping out of the helicopter on ropes. I grabbed a quick photo and even though it looks further away, this helicopter was so close to us.

Reunion (9/27/14)

We have been slowly trying to find more clothes for our family and so doing some shopping today was great. There were a few sales going on, and we found some warm things for winter, but Titus and Avery tried to sneak in some hats. Here’s a photo of how we found them today while they were doing some shopping of their own.

Reunion (9/27/14)

With lots of shopping and a nice lunch, Avery got a little sleepy at the restaurant. Here she is laying on the bench while we all were still talking and enjoying time together.

Reunion (9/27/14)

Our little reunion ended around 4:00pm today and we headed back to our town. Cory and Kristine are staying in a hotel near us so we dropped them off and all of us got a late afternoon nap. Tonight the Cramers came back over for some dessert and we said our goodbyes. It was fun to spend time today and last night with them and a privilege for us to call them our friends. If you think of it, pray for the Cramers as they return to Albania and begin to settle in. They have had a very full summer with ministry and lots of things going in their house so now will be the time where they can begin to find their new normal. We’re thankful for their friendship and will continue to trust the Lord to use them mightily in Albania.

Tomorrow is Bethany’s birthday! We have something special planned, but I don’t want to give it away now. I guess you’ll have to tune in tomorrow for all the details. Until then, from Czech Republic I’m Shay Thomason…back to you.