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What are You Doing Here?

June 24, 2014

That was the question posed to me by a random Czech passerby while I watched Greta and Anders play with our friend Marketa’s son, Venda. Except that wasn’t what he asked. I have, for the sake of decency, omitted a perfectly placed and pronounced f-bomb. As in, “What are you *%$* doing here?”

The young man asking the question seemed to be intrigued by the presence of English speakers in his town of Jablonné nad Orlicí, a village in the Pardubice region of the Czech Republic, not too far from the Polish border. I assume he was surprised that Americans – or anyone for that matter – would visit his little corner of the world. After all, if Americans make it to the Czech Republic, surely Prague is as far as they get. And what is there to see in Jablonné? What the *%$* were we doing there?

Well, the young man’s question was misplaced in a two ways. First, the Pardubice region is beautiful, filled with rolling hills and a sky that goes on forever. While it may not be Prague, there’s no shortage of things to do. We visited a castle (with a petting zoo!), celebrated the 500th birthday of a neighboring town, and took long walks in the countryside near the penzion that was our home for six days.

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Friends.

Second, and more importantly, we weren’t there to see or to do anything. We were there to be with friends, starting with Marketa. Marketa was a foreign exchange student who stayed with Erika’s family and they’ve been in touch ever since. Through Marketa, we have developed a number of friendships with great people in the area. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered folks as hospitable. Best of all, perhaps, was the chance to introduce our children to these wonderful people in this wonderful place. I was amazed, over and over again, at how the language barrier didn’t slow Greta down a bit. Holding hands is an international language.

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Crossing boundaries, finding friendship.

So, what the *&%* were we doing there? Something far better than mere sightseeing, as good as that is. We were spending time with some of the most important (to us) people in the world in one of the most beautiful places in the world. And there just aren’t many things more renewing than that. Until next time, our dear Czech friends!

From → Sabbatical 2014

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