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13 February 2012

A Whole New World (Two Weeks and Counting)

After reading my blog title, I'll be very surprised if images of Aladdin are not currently in your mind. Also, I'd like to apologize in advance for getting that song stuck in your head (it will likely be there for days).


Well, I've been in Slovakia for two weeks now. I'd like to share some highlights of my initial thoughts and experiences. First of all, thank you so much for your interest in my life in the first place. I've realized that one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is genuine interest in their life, and I have received that from so many of you!

people

Before coming, I was slightly apprehensive about the struggle of building friendships in a new place and culture. I knew it was possible and probable that I'd feel isolated and lonely for awhile. I really believe God answered my prayers and the prayers of others. In the first couple weeks, I've been blown away by the amount of people I've met and connections that have been made.

Skupinka (Small group)

People have gone out of their way to invite me to meals, Bible studies, churches, get togethers, and other cities. I have even had to turn down a couple offers just to take it easy and get organized at my flat. It has been incredibly encouraging, to say the least, as I settle into my new life here.

Everyone takes their shoes off before entering a house. Slippers are generally provided.

highlights

From the moment I arrived, it has been cold! I guess large portions of Europe have been hit by winds from Siberia, and this has resulted in sub-zero temperatures. [Insert nostalgic story of Brazil's warmth here] Needless to say, this has cut down on my exploration of the city and photo taking!

I attended a Slovak church for the first time. It was a very traditional service. The main notable difference was their method of communion: 1) Everyone drank from the same glass and 2) They drank real wine. Following the service, I was invited to lunch where I experienced firsthand the sweet fellowship of Slovak believers (and some incredible home cooking).


The German Patriot

Did I watch the Super Bowl?? I'm offended that you asked. Ha, the game started at 12:30 AM here and was only shown on a German TV station. I didn't understand what they were saying, but they sounded confused. The camera crew pretty much just filmed a German-born offensive lineman the entire time, but I heard rumors that Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and others were involved in the game as well.

video
"Tom Brady!!!" (with a German accent)

The public transit is very impressive here, and I got a card that allows me to use the trams and buses for an entire year. There is a site that tells you when the buses will be at a particular stop, and it's almost always right on.

A trolley bus I take to and from work (it typically has people in it).

I've met a number of Americans here already that are either involved in ministry or teaching English in Slovak schools. Last week, I attended a really cool Bible study with young Slovak believers and two American missionary couples.

While unpacking, I had the lovely surprise of finding sweet and encouraging letters from my family hidden in my suitcases. My family continues to confirm in my mind their status as greatest ever.


Some other highlights of my first couple weeks include getting stitches removed from my back in a small clinic, making sushi from scratch with some new friends, Skyping with friends and family back home, taking a train to Vienna for some sightseeing with my TWR colleague, and sitting in a small, crowded room for eight hours at the foreign police only to find out I was missing a necessary form.



Inside St. Stephen's Cathedral

Belvedere Palace

A really cool cafe inside a greenhouse

International church in Vienna

work-related

As far as working with TWR, it is against the law here to be officially employed before acquiring a visa, and this can take a few weeks to be completed. So, while this is in process, I've been reading lots of forms, filling out paperwork, having orientation meetings, and getting more acquainted with my responsibilities as social media coordinator for TWR Europe.

This is what my official job title will be in Slovak: Projekt Analytik Multimediálnych Systémov. Ha! Everyone has to fit into given occupational categories, and this was the closest to what I'll be doing.

food/drink

The food is really good here! I've been invited to meals for everything from Turkish kebabs to Austrian schnitzel to sushi. When I'm on my own, I've hit up the local grocery store for a variety of things including pastries and fruit. One time I tried to order beef and beans and got chicken and mushrooms. Ha! I haven't had too many traditional Slovak dishes yet (i.e. fried cheese) besides halušky (dumplings, cheese, and bacon).

IKEA lunch for 2 Euros

Pizza with figs

The coffee here is awesome. Enough said. My one complaint is their size when ordered from a cafe. Small = thimble-sized nonsense. Extra large = Small in the US.

"Coffee with cream" will get you coffee with whipped cream. :)

language

After substantial time searching online and braving wind from Antarctica, I found a basic Slovak language class for foreigners. What I didn't know was that this group had been together for over a month. Needless to say, I spent an hour and a half in confusion (nodding on occasion when others did).

This language is crazy! Right now I'm just building my vocabulary and learning pronunciation. As I've mentioned previously, the language I'll be using for ministry with TWR Europe will be almost exclusively in English since seventy countries are involved. However, I also want to immerse myself in Slovak culture and language when I'm not in the office!

Some initial weird things I've observed: 1) They use both "ahoj" (aw-hoy) and "čau" (chow) for either "hi" or "bye" and 2) There are a lot of words with multiple consecutive consonants such as "zmrzlina" (ice cream) and "štvrtok" (Thursday).

differences

No one walks around with travel mugs or to-go cups. Despite them drinking it all the time at home and work, I have yet to see anyone in public transit or on the sidewalk carrying a cup of coffee or tea. That hasn't stopped me from attempting to start a trend here in Slovakia (and accidentally spilling a little coffee on a lady once when the bus driver slammed on the brakes...whoops!).

Dryers are not common here. Well, at least not in my flat.

Two words: metric system. At some point I will master Celsius, meters, km/hr, etc. That point has not come.

sorry

This section title is due to the length of this blog. My next entries will not be this long since I would quickly lose readers. Ha, but this was the first major update since my arrival, and there were just so many interesting tidbits to post.

thank you

I would not be here without you. Thank you for your love and support!

20 comments:

  1. Removing your shoes at the door is such a great custom. Slovakia must be a cool place!

    I have an whole blog about removing shoes in homes:Shoes Off at the Door, Please You might like to take a look.

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    1. ha! that's hilarious you have a blog dedicated to this.

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  2. It has been so encouraging to read all your stories or last days, travels, and new adventures in Slovakia! How good our God is to provide our needs, stay faithful to us, and to already be transitioning you into a new culture so quickly! Know you are staying in our prayers and we look forward to more updates!! :) Blessings to you

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  3. Paul, never think your blog is too lengthy! It is all so very interesting to someone who will most likely never have the opportunity you are having there. Thank you for commenting on the everyday things. It makes it seem that we are closer.

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    1. Glad you like it! Thanks for your interest! :)

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  4. Paul. This was awesome. I'm so happy to be reading about your time there. And please do start the travel mug trend. You need one with a flashy color so people take notice.

    ps. Metric system. EASY PEASY. It's all in whole numbers... :)

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    1. Please send me one with LED lights! Ha. When will the US convert to the metric system (and Tim Hortons)?

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  5. Well, it's obvious. The reason they don't use to-go cups is because it's not worth carrying around a thimble full of coffee! :)

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    1. HA! Can't believe I didn't realize this sooner!

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  6. Paulo, awesome to read about your first couple weeks. However, I do hold you personally responsible for breaking into "a whole new world" in a public place. Glad to hear you're learning to take off your shoes and the metric system...you'll become a good Canadian yet. Love you bro, Matt

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    1. Ha! I'm sure it sounded glorious and that everyone in the area chimed in with you. I'll become a Canadian yet.

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  7. excellent blog. you have a gift to write....great 'prayer-letter'...
    esther meisel

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  8. Paul! We laughed many times while reading your blog! Boy, are you are a brilliant blogger, bro! So glad you're having fun, though we're not jealous of you having to learn Slovak; we're a big fan of the vowels!! (=
    Love you, Paully!!
    ..Abby, Mom & Dad

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    1. "Vowels are overrated." - common saying by the local Slovaks. Love you too!

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  9. I enjoyed seeing the pictures that give an idea of what life is like in your new home. I'm so glad you have met so many interesting people and are making friends already. It does take about a year to really feel comfortable in a place.

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  10. Thanks Paul, good laugh!It takes someone liek you to come to help us see what we are not seeing anymore :) Branko

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  11. Paul, it is good reading about your adventures and seeing the direction God is leading you. Keep the blogs coming, long or short, and we will keep you in our prayers.
    Tom and Anita

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    1. Thanks for reading. Means a lot! I'll keep 'em coming. :)

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