Month: January 2005

Audrey shovels snow

Audrey shovels snow
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

More snow tonight, but by the time I got home the kids had already finished sledding. So Audrey shoveled the driveway while I swept off the stairs. There was absolutely no point to doing this since it was snowing like crazy at the time and everything was covered back over in just a few minutes. But there was something compelling about that fresh layer of snow on the driveway.

Today was an off-motto day; computers were easy.

The last 15 years around the IT world has led me to my motto that, “When you work with computers, nothing is ever easy.”

Today either God must have been smiling on Budapest, or there was a temporary reprieve of the curse of Genesis 3:17, or maybe all the planets were aligned. I stopped by two friends’ houses and solved their computer problems with ease. That never happens.

Andrew has strep throat, but we let him go sledding anyway.

Maybe we’re bad parents, but the sledding conditions were too good to miss. So, strep throat and all, Andrew came sledding with Audrey and me.

The hill is about 100 yards long and ends in the street, so someone has to stand at the bottom of the hill and make sure no cars are coming. Tonight the whole track was iced over, so it was really fast. We had a great time!

(And today I got to walk to work in the snow; one of my favorite experiences of living here.)

Should have been a snow day

snow on Budafoki utca
Snow day
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Today we had our first real snow, and it should have been a snow day. (That’s a Monday-morning quarterback comment.)

Walking Annie in these conditions is counter productive but fun. She is so excited to play in the snow that she won’t go. Instead she bites at the snow and eats a lot of it, and by the time she comes in she has eaten more liquid than she has left behind. Five minutes later she’s begging to go out again.

new discovery at St. Istvan’s Basilica

Yesterday Tom, Cathy, and I took the Orlando Team for a tour of Budapest. Much of the tour was a repeat for me, but several things were new.

One new thing was my lunch. I ate langos (fried bread) again for the first time since 1987. It’s still fried bread.

We also visited St. Istvan’s Basilica (St. Stephen’s). I discovered some really cool stained glass windows in chapel. The only other place I’ve seen glass this vivid is in Prague at St. Vitus Cathdral. 500 years in the sun has removed most of the color from most of the other Central European cathedral windows, so seeing something created recently is a visual treat.

In contrast with the vivid new windows in this chapel there is a gruesome, old relic there, too; St. Istvan’s right hand. Yes, his actual right hand, over 1000 years old. For 100 Forint you can shine a spotlight on it for a better look.

EE Staff Conference 2005 is over!

The conference ended tonight, and everyone seemed to have a great experience. The main speakers, Dr. Bill Lawrence and Dr. Joe Stowell, were great, the worship team, Dave Hall and company, were pro’s, and the stage production (lights, videos, sound, SLIDE SHOWS, etc.) created a fun environment.

Tomorrow it’s back home in our own beds again. I can’t wait.

But wait, there’s more (before we crash). I’ll be a tour guide for the Orlando Team as they see Budapest the next couple days. The best part of that phase will be our chance to take them to dinner on Monday night at the Adler!

Tech Collaboration Session

Tech Collaboration Session
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Three years ago at this Eastern European Staff Conference I observed that there was little communication between the technical people here in the area.

Among other advances over the last year or so, yesterday was a landmark day. It was the first [known] time that several technical people from this CCC area got together and shared their knowledge and experience!

Me and the drunk Zimbabwean

Today was a scramble getting everything done for the arrival of the remaining 700 Eastern European staff, but by far the most interesting thing was my encounter with a drunk Zimbabwean.

I was looking for an outlet extension cord (in the same store I shopped in 16 years ago) when this man asked me if I spoke English. The funny thing was that he assumed I spoke Hungarian. It was soon apparent why, as he had been drinking a bit much. Ironically he was right; I spoke enough Hungarian to help him.

He wanted to buy me a drink and talk about all sorts of things, but I was in a terrible hurry and couldn’t stay. He said he was an English teacher at the high school in Balatonfured. Quite a character!

Cathy and the kids came down today, too. It was nice to be with them again. I missed seeing Andrew, though, as he is off to a youth conference for the whole week and left before I got back.

Tihany Cathedral

Karl and Jon at the Tihany Cathedral
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

While the Tihany Cathedral is not really part of the conference, it was the most interesting thing about today.

Karl needed to buy a birthday gift for his wife, so we drove to Balatonfured and found an open flower shop. On the way home we drove up the hill to the Tihany Cathedral and took a quick look around. It would be the only chance Jon (on the right) would have to see anything but the inside of the conference center since he leaves tomorrow.

In 1987 I spent the summer in Balatonfured, so it has been fun to drive through town again. I think I remember where the apartment was that I lived in back then, but I’m not sure. Andrew begins a youth conference tomorrow in Balatonfured, so when we drop him off I hope to look until I find it.

Orlando Team

Orlando Team
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Karl, Steve, and Rene are part of the IT Team from Orlando that provided the Internet Lab at the conference this year. It’s good to see friends from back home again!

Things have gone well technically with the Internet Lab, and the conference sessions have been challenging spiritually.

Arriving at Staff Conference

Arriving at Staff Conference
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Today the first wave of people arrived at Club Tihany on Lake Balaton for our Campus Crusade Eastern Europe Staff Conference.

I like seeing many of the friends I’ve made over the last 18 months again.

Besides coordinating an Internet Lab for our staff at this conference, I am the conference photographer. Each night we’ll have a slide show with photos taken during the day. It sounded easy enough when I agreed to it, but I’m finding it’s more work than I expected. At least it’s fun, and my other responsibilities with the Internet Lab have gone very smoothly so far.

Daniel and Kseniya

Daniel and Xenia
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

We met Daniel and Kseniya by email. They are Campus Crusade staff in St. Petersburg, Russia, and they were looking for a place to stay on their honeymoon.

No, we didn’t have them stay with us, but we did arrange for them to rent the apartment next door for a couple weeks.

Tonight we had them over for dinner and had a great time with them. It was a fascinating privilege to hear their perspective on Budapest, their visit to the Terror Museum here which documents the Soviet influence over Hungary, and their tales of growing up in the middle of Russia.

I still can’t pronounce the name of Kseniya’s home town, but it is large, and it’s in the middle of Siberia. She said they usually have snow there 8 months out of the year!!

Measuring what God is doing

Today, amidst the scramble of getting ready for our upcoming Campus Crusade Eastern Europe staff conference, we had a meeting to discuss how we should report what is happening here in our student groups.

Do we measure what God did? That is, how many people indicated a decision to put their faith in Christ, how many people did we engage in conversation to the point of discussing the issue of putting one’s faith in Christ, how many students are involved in spiritual growth Bible studies, etc.?

Or do we measure what work we did? That is, how much time did we spend trying to meet students, how much time did we spend on campus, how much did we work planning the weekly student meeting, etc.?

On the one hand, it makes sense to measure our role in God’s work. After all, it’s the only thing we can control. On the other hand, we want to be involved where God is working, so it makes sense to watch for things that only God can do (like work in someone’s heart for spiritual growth).

My goal is to influence the discussion toward measuring the things that God is doing.

What I’m not yet sure about is what to do when it appears God isn’t working.

Do you proceed as though there is something wrong with the team’s efforts and take a closer look at what they’re doing?
Do you adjust the expectation (of spiritual results) so they match reality?
Or do you shift your efforts toward where God is clearly producing spiritual interest?

These are questions I hope to find an answer to and questions which I’m sure will get hot debate in our group in the next few months!

Walking Annie

Walking Annie
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Last night a stray dog got into our trash and dragged out all the turkey leg bones into the driveway and street. We cleaned up the mess and then took Annie out for her nightly walk. Once Annie discovered the smell and scraps of turkey littered around she became quite excited. She would hardly do her duty she was so distracted.

We finally got her done and back inside, but she was anything but done in her own mind. No, she urgently needed to go back outside and get more of those turkey bits!

All night she gave us the most empassioned pleas to go back outside. No matter how much we ignored her, she begged us to take her back outside. I wish I had recorded a video of her performance. It was worth an Oscar.

This alley is where I normally walk her, just around the corner from our house.

My unexpected trip to the Szantod Ferry Dock

Today I had an appointment to visit Club Tihany, the site of our upcoming Campus Crusade Eastern Europe Staff Conference. My goal was to verify the Internet connection we plan to use.

I thought it would take about an hour to get there, but just before I left someone told me it took two hours. Yikes! Someone suggested a quicker route that might save me some time, but it involved driving to the south side of Lake Balaton and taking a ferry across the lake to Club Tihany. Potentially it could save me a half hour.

Last summer we were in Siofok and took a ferry across the lake to the Tihany Cathedral very close to Club Tihany, so I figured it must be the same place. Yet there were still some questions in my mind.

When I arrived in Siofok (already late for my appointment) I discovered that the boat we rode last summer was shut down for the winter. The bay in which it floated was frozen.

I asked the next person I found if they knew where the ferry was. He told me in German, and soon I was on my way further down the road. Not that I understood him in German, but I didn’t want to make him repeat it again in Hungarian and still not understand it.

Down the road I asked another person who answered me in Hungarian. I understood enough this time to proceed, and soon I discovered that I was heading to a town called Szantod, several kilometers away from Siofok.

By the time I got to the ferry dock I had long missed the departure that would have put me at my meeting on time, so I bought a ticket and looked around the dock. As I waited, I discovered it was full of interesting boats. It was a nice consolation for being late.

The meeting went sufficiently well, but ironically I couldn’t directly verify any of the Internet connections I went to test. Overall I accomplished my purpose in going, though, and I am confident things will work fine when the conference starts next week.

It was another day of adventure in Hungary.

Interesting contrasts for one day

Today we experienced two extremes: the best service we ever received and the worst service we ever received.

At the Vogel Mountain Ski Area, the equipment rental shop had two of the nicest people working there. They gave us the best service we have had anywhere since we’ve lived in Europe. It made the day smooth and relaxing.

[Cathy says I was too negative in describing our bad service experience, so I rewrote it. The time was so absurd that it went beyond negative. I mention it, not for the sake of griping, but to describe a very unique thing that happened to us. In all fairness, our lack of ability to speak Slovenian (in Slovenia!) was probably the biggest source of the problem.]

That night we went to a hotel restaurant that gave us the worst service we ever received anywhere. It was a nightmare that didn’t seem to end, and it was aggravated by our inability to speak the local language.

The two experiences added to our memories of Bled, Slovenia!

We all try skiing!

Hertzler-Landwehr Gang in the Julian Alps
After looking around the Vogel Mountain Ski Area, we all decided to try skiing. None of the Hertzler-Landwehr Gang had spent any more than a couple days skiing before, so there were some new challenges for us. The Jacksons had a few experienced skiiers in their clan, too, but several also in the learning stage.

We had a blast!

Everyone gave it a try, and by the end of the day, about half the group was still skiing and enjoying it.

The slopes were beautiful and had a variety of ways to get you to the top. Several runs had the regular chair lifts, but the easier hills had pulley systems. The pulley system gave you a pole with a disk or a hook at the end that you put between your legs and rode/skiied up the hill. Learning how to ride it was harder than learning how to ski!

# tried skiing: 15
# continued past noon: 6
# snowboarded: 2
# learned to ski: 9
# hit in the head by the ski lift pulley pole: 2 (and they thought it was funny)
# fell off the ski lift pulley midway up the hill: 8

It was fun to watch everyone enjoy the day, and we wished we had several more days to stay.

The sunset over the mountains was the most amazing sunset I can remember.

Bled Castle

Hertzler-Landwehr-Jackson Gang at Bled Castle, Slovenia

One of the extra bonuses of this road trip was that our friends, the Jacksons, joined us in Bled.

The first thing we did in Bled, Slovenia was visit the castle. It sits on top a cliff overlooking Lake Bled. It’s the most amazing scenery we’ve ever seen!

Later that afternoon we headed up to Vogel Mountain Ski area to have a look around.

Click here for lots of photos of Bled, Slovenia (which I took last year when we went).

Vienna detour

Landwehr Gang at St. Stephens Cathedral - Vienna

One of the things the Landwehr Gang really wanted to do here was see mountains, so we rented a 9 passenger van and headed off to the Julian Alps in Slovenia. (Slovenia was part of the former Yugoslavia.) On our way we detoured to Vienna, Austria, ate lunch, and took a quick look around.

Heroes’ Square

Landwehr Gang at Heroes' Square - Budapest, Hungary
Heroes’ Square video
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

We managed to make it out the door today before it got dark. The cold and rain made us all happy to keep our visit to Heroes’ Square short!

Click here or click the photo for another short (10 sec) video.

Tonight when we got back, Matt and Matt went for a walk. On the sidewalk they saw a snake and wanted to catch it. First Cousin Matt poured out his Mountain Dew so they would have something to put it in, then they both moved in slowly for the capture. When their hands were just inches away from grabbing it they noticed something wasn’t quite right. Then it became clear to them. It was plastic! They caught their first plastic Hungarian snake.