Saturday, September 18, 2010

Uherské Hradiště


The tiny city of Uherské Hradiště is a little gem with a very long history. Located in southern Moravia, about 25 km southwest of Zlín, it was settled several millenia before Christ.  The oldest remaining structures date from the 15th century A.D.  It was officially founded as a Czech city in 1257, although it had served as an important fortress in the great Moravian Empire (9th and 10th centuries A.D.)  Like many places in Eastern and Central Europe, it has a beautiful Jewish Synagogue that now serves a different purpose than its builders had originally intended; sadly, there aren’t enough Jews left here to maintain a synagogue. The pink building in a nearby picture was once the town's synagogue, but is now a lovely library.  There are hundreds of beautiful towns and cities like this one all over the Czech Republic.

We spent a day earlier this month exploring this city. It provides a cameo of Czech history and culture; it is a beautiful place with a long history of struggle and oppression. It’s people are intimately connected to this history, making them strugglers, too.

Ancient City Wall

Monday, September 13, 2010

And the Czech goes on….

Well, we passed a tiny milestone last week: we have completed eight full weeks of Czech language study. A typical weekday for us includes two hours with our teacher and two to four hours of study at home. The learning process has been slow, but we can see definite progress. We like to compare it to having a large glass vase filled with clear water and a heavy layer of silt at the bottom.  As long as you leave this arrangement as is, the water is clear and there is something pretty solid at the bottom.  However, when you add more stuff to the vase, the silt quickly clouds the water with the result that nothing is clear and the solid layer at the bottom is all stirred up. This process of clarity followed by confusion is a pretty good description of our learning progress.  There have been some humorous moments.  Our favorite one is a recurring statement from our dear teacher that, “... well we don’t say it that way because it would be too hard.” To illustrate how funny that is, we have a simple example. There are many Czech words that end in the letter “d”, like “bod” and “had”, their words for point and snake. They don’t like to pronounce the “d” at the end of words, so they de-voice it to “t”.  Our teacher insists that it would be too hard, or wouldn’t sound right to say the “d”. That goes over like a pregnant pole-vaulter when you realize they say things like “chtvrt” or “shtvaachsky” or “przhetrzheekat” (don’t forget to roll all the r’s and pronounce EVERY letter).

Czech is a beautiful, but complex, language and we are still in the very early stages of learning it.  We still marvel at the fluency of most three year olds.  Many of you have written to say that you are praying for us to learn Czech. We need and appreciate that.