Why we’ve Stayed in Prague For Almost 4 Years

Not too long ago I wrote a post about why we moved to Prague and about how we are existential migrants. Today I want to write a little bit about why we’ve stayed in Prague for almost 4 years now.

When we first moved to Prague we both agreed that we needed to give ourselves a minimum time commitment. We knew that if we didn’t have something set before going into the move then we could very easily just move back when things got hard and we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to push through and give Prague a fair chance. We agreed that we had to stay for at least one year and I’m so glad that we did. If we hadn’t stayed at least that long we would have never met a number of people who have ended up becoming some of our closest friends.

Since that first year we have been almost constantly reevaluating our time here. There are regularly days when things are hard and we miss our family and we wonder if Prague is really the right place for us. The first few years, in particular, though, every time we asked that question we felt very assured that Prague was exactly where we needed to be.

Why did we feel that way? What made us decide time and time again to stay in Prague?

The short answer is that in an odd way Prague felt like home to us, and we felt surprisingly comfortable here from the beginning.

We felt at home amidst the foreign.

It sounds like an oxymoron to say that we felt at home amidst the foreign, but it’s true. I can’t speak for my husband and his reasons, but I can try to explain to you a little bit about why I think I felt at home amidst the foreign. This article says that most Existential Migrants “leave their home cultures because they never felt ‘at home’ in the first place.” For me, that’s sort of true. I’ve always felt a little awkward and uncomfortable in general and I think for a long time before moving to Prague I didn’t really feel at home in my home country. Being surrounded by the foreign suddenly it was perfectly ok and acceptable to be a little awkward or uncomfortable, it was even expected. With that came a feeling of freedom, I could relax into my awkwardness a little bit and that made me feel comfortable. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, but it makes sense to me.

Bryan and I also really value cultures and languages, and difference. We value people having different opinions and ideas, different sets of experiences from ours and different perspectives. Surrounded by people who are very different from us and who think differently than we do, we felt at home and comfortable sharing our own ideas and thoughts. I remember so many times leaving a group of people and exclaiming to each other how much we loved the time and conversation, how much we loved so-and-so for sharing their outlook which was SO different from anything we had ever heard before. We would remark about how the people we hung out with where people we probably wouldn’t have been friends with in the states, or even had the opportunity to meet in the states, because they were fairly different from us and our normal circles, but we loved them and loved being with them.

We love how being in foreign situations, and meeting people who are different from us stretched us and in that stretching we actually felt comfortable and “at home”. Of course there are a lot of places in the world where we would be surrounded by a much more foreign culture and atmosphere than Prague, but Prague is still so different from our home country that we felt there was lots we could learn from that difference and that made us excited. It made us want to stay longer and soak up all that we could of the foreignness.

We felt at home amidst a dream.

We moved because we dreamed about living a different sort of life. We dreamed about living intentionally and distinctively. We dreamed about welcoming adventure instead of fearing it. In moving to Prague we knew we were taking an active step to pursue our dream and become the people we wanted to be, and in that pursuit of ourselves we felt at home. We stayed to continue that pursuit.

But, soon after we moved here we also connected with another dream, a dream that took us out of ourselves and, at least for me, was a significant reason why I wanted to stay in Prague past the 1 year mark.

Soon after we moved here we got involved with a church plant here. It was a church that looked different from the typical church and a group that was equally different. I loved it. We met in people’s homes, coffee shops and art galleries, often we didn’t have a set sermon but instead all interacted with scripture together. It got me excited about church again and I felt like I jumped in with my whole heart. I wanted to stay in Prague because I wanted to be a part of what God was doing here and particularly what He was doing in this group. I wanted to stay in Prague because I felt like I had a home and place within this dream/vision.

These past few years have truly been a roller coaster ride, and much has happened with this group of people and this dream. I still want to see what God will do here in the Czech Republic, but I feel less and less certain and more and unsure about my place within that work. But, that’s for another post…

We felt at home amidst the expats.

Expats are a unique group. We come from all different backgrounds and experiences, and yet we find we bond quickly because we all have one shared experience which shapes us – moving overseas. We may come for different reasons, but we all feel the pull of the foreign to some extent. We may come from different backgrounds, but we all embrace a particular openness to the “other”. I find that really refreshing.

Among expats I find a disproportionate number of people who are “like me” even though they may be ENTIRELY different from me. I find others who share my values for openness and diversity, for living creatively on purpose, for pursuing those things that really matter (because in a foreign country you quickly learn what is essential and what is not). Often expats are willing to go deeper more quickly and relationships develop at a sort of super speed out of necessity.

Expats are also a group of people with stories. They have done things, seen things, and been places. They aren’t content to just work normal jobs and raise their kids. They are often the kind of people who say yes to things instead of saying no and then see where their yeses take them. I like that. I love hearing people’s stories and I love the types of stories I get to hear in the expat community.

Bryan and I like being expats and we like the expats we meet. And so far we haven’t been ready to leave that community behind.
Staying in Prague has never really been an easy decision. As much as we may feel at home here, we also already have a home in the states and there’s a lot that we miss out on by being here. But, for the past nearly 4 years staying in Prague has always been a very clear decision. The reasons above are good, true, reasons for why we have stayed, but beyond them there has always been a less tangible more unofficial reason why we have stayed – something that can only be explained as a feeling or a still small voice saying, “Stay.”

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Mosaic House

At the end of June my husband and I had the opportunity to stay at Mosaic House. It’s a new hostel/hotel that our friends just opened up in down town Prague and it’s beautiful. I was so super impressed with Mosaic House that I just had to write about it here. I will tell you up front, in the interest of full disclosure, that we got to stay there for free thanks to the fact that we know the owners and they had some availability in the first few weeks that they were open. I decided on my own that I would love to write a review of Mosaic House here on my blog. This review will be all my own honest opinion.

Mosaic House greets it’s guests with a casual chic atmosphere that would be hard to durplicate. Out in front of the building there are a number of benches and potted plants that give the feeling of a little oasis amid the busy city streets. You come through the doors to walk across an old restored mosaic from the 1930’s into a large open room. The bar is directly in front of you with the check-in desk right next to it and off to your left. We came in with our 9 month old son and were soon greeted by smiling employees and fellow guests many of which took a quick second to coo at our “adorable” baby boy (which as a mom I of course deeply appreciated).

When we arrived it was late afternoon and the bar was already busy although not nearly as crowded as it would be later in the evening. Belushi’s Bar at Mosaic House is definitely the place to be. People were hanging out, making new acquaintances, watching the world cup games on the big screen TV’s and swapping traveling stories. It would be the perfect place to hang out with friends and grab a beer.

Since we had a baby with us we made our way to the restaurant off to the right from the front door and found a quiet room with a number of comfortable tables. This was probably my personal favorite room in Mosaic House. They had these awesome lights hanging from the ceiling and the bench that stretches throughout the whole downstairs of the hotel went up the wall in this room, which I just thought looked so cool. We hung out in the restaurant for quite a while with a number of friends from around the city. We had dinner there and each had great hamburgers with heaping servings of French fries. I only have two complaints about the restaurant: they didn’t have a high chair for babies/toddlers, and it wasn’t exactly “real” food – it was good food, but not really traditional, local, preservative free, organic, sustainable, or anything like that. The high chair may have just been an oversight since they had only been open a few days. And as for the menu, well, most restaurants don’t really serve real food so I can’t complain about that too much. But, wouldn’t it be great if more hotels and restaurants started to consider the health and sustainability of the foods they are presenting to their customers? Especially green hotels like this one?

That brings me to the coolest thing about Mosaic House and perhaps my favorite thing. Mosaic House is an environmentally friendly, green hotel.

Mosaic House features some of the most sophisticated green technology in the hospitality industry, including the first greywater recycling unit with heat recuperation technology in the Czech Republic, water heated with solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, room temperature levels and electric shutters controlled by a super computer based on occupancy, bathrooms with low-flow toilets, rain dance showers, and more.”

Seriously, how cool is that! I loved that they took an old building from the 1930’s and restored it not only into a beautiful and comfortable hotel, but also into an energy-saving, earth-friendly place to stay. I really appreciate that and wish more hotels were making these kinds of efforts.

All that’s great, but what about the rooms themselves, you ask? Well, there beautiful! Whites, burgundies, and natural woods create an elegant and comfortable feel in the thoughtfully designed rooms. The bed is super comfortable with big pillows and soft duvet covers. The bathroom is clean and fresh with a beautiful raised sink and a invigorating shower that you would never be able to tell is water-efficient.

Best of all though was the great customer service. Maybe it was due to the fact that we knew so many of the people working there, but even those we didn’t know were so friendly. I really appreciated that the employees smiled. Czech’s aren’t known for being smiley people, so I especially appreciate when someone in Prague takes a minute to smile at me. I also really appreciated how helpful everyone was. When we had a question or needed something people were really attentive to get it for us, or apologetic if they couldn’t (like the high chair).

Overall, we had a wonderful experience staying at Mosaic House. If you live in Prague go check it out – Belushi’s bar is a great place to hang out and the hotel itself is a wonderful place for a little night away from home even within your own city. If you don’t live in Prague but are ever traveling through I would definitely recommend that you stay at Mosaic House.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Things Are Happening In Prague

Today I went to Berlin without ever leaving Prague… Or at least it felt a little bit like that.

This morning my dear friend, Carrie, and I went to a FARMERS MARKET!! I wrote Farmers Market all in caps because that’s how excited I am about it – the words should be read with the excitement and surprise due to all capital letters. Hehe.

The experience was not at all disappointing. Ok, it’s no Berlin Farmers Market, but it was really great. There were lots of stands with a variety of goods. I bought fresh yogurt (and regretted the fact that I didn’t also buy the fresh whey they were also selling at the same stand). I bought some Czech made honey, and ostrich meat too. Yes, ostrich meat! Carrie and I shared an organic crepe made from buckwheat and drizzled with honey.

All the stands were clearly labeled with the location where the farm was located. The people were friendly and nice and there was a general feeling of excitement in the air all around. They had TONS of beautiful flowers, plenty of fresh bread from local bakeries, fresh dairy products, honey, dried fish, veggies, handmade baskets and some fruit. I’m hoping that as we move into warmer weather there will be even more variety at the fruit and vegetable stands.

The market was located near Devicka circle and from what I hear it will be happening every other week throughout the summer. Personally I think that they should make it an every week market since the place was PACKED! There were so many people there that you had to wait in line at every stand. From what I hear the first one they did (which happened just a few weeks ago) was so crowded that by late morning the stands were all picked over. Today Carrie and I got there at around 8:45 and stayed for about an hour. There was plenty of food and other goods and it seemed they were very prepared for the crowds.

Carrie filled me in a little bit on the history of Farmers Markets in Prague and I thought it was interesting. Basically, before communism there used to be farmers markets in Prague really regularly, but the communists were, of course, against capitalism and private enterprises so they stopped the farmers markets. As far as we know this is the first farmers market to be organized in Prague since the communists stopped them (although, I could definitely be wrong).

Anyway, it felt really great to be a part of this farmers market.

Latter in the day Mathias called and said that he had seen this flea market type event going on in a warehouse just down the street and that we should check it out so Carrie and Thad and I walked down to explore. It turns out it was a big fashion market with tons of designers and lots of trendy unique stuff. It’s called Code Mode and it was really cool and totally had a Berlin like feel to it.

It took place in this massive old unfinished warehouse. There were stands everywhere with cloths, jewelry, purses, knickknacks, paintings and all kinds of other goods. There was chill funky music playing in the background. There was a big stage set up on one end where they did a fashion show last night and where there will be a concert tonight. There were tons of people mingling and shopping and, of course since it’s Europe, smoking. I could have done without the smoking, but other than that the place had a very cool vibe.

Things are happening in Prague. To me these things speak of the beauty, creativity, and individuality that is still very much alive in Prague. Some days I don’t see it. Honestly, some days Prague feels dead. But, today I was reminded that Prague is very much alive. The spring is here in Prague and there is so much more to come.

Rejoicing in the journey –

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Prague: The Good and The Bad

Yesterday I found myself thinking about what I like and don’t like about Prague and my life in Prague. As I thought I realized that many of the little things that I like and don’t like are opposite sides of the same coin.

I like that there are four distinct seasons in Prague. I like that the city feels like a completely different place with each season. In the summer the atmosphere is crowded and animated as the city comes alive with festivals as well as tourists. In the fall the leaves change colors, there’s a crispness in the air, and the city seems itself to speak of bygone days and ancient stories. In the winter the snow on the rooftops, the charm of the Christmas markets and the lights that shine through the dreaded darkness give the city a magical ambiance. And in the spring everything aches with new life and the new birth that even the very buildings seem to have longed for throughout the cold winter.
…But, having four distinct seasons means there is a bitter cold winter that lasts far longer than I would like. I really hate being cold and I often feel like I’m always cold here.

I like living in an expat community. I like that when I meet other Americans we have an instant connection, and a whole set of shared experiences right from the start. There is something instantly bonding just because we are from the same country and culture. And there is something bonding about the fact that we have both experienced what it is like to move overseas and live in foreign Prague. I like that most (if not all) of the expats I’ve met seem to be always on the lookout for friends and “family” here in Prague. Expats usually aren’t in closed circles, they aren’t ingrained in the same circles of friends that they’ve had for years upon years. Instead they are constantly looking for friends and open to meeting people. We have all uprooted from our friends and family and we know that the only way to survive here is to establish strong bonds and friendships. I like that. I like that people are really open to one another and looking for friends. It all makes getting to know people a lot easier in a way.
…But, I also really dislike living in an expat community because it means that you live in a constantly transient community. Most expats don’t stay long in Prague. They come for all different reasons – to teach, to preach, to work. Some come just for the experience and the adventure of it. But, no matter what their reason is most don’t stay longer than a few years. Bryan and I are still fairly new to Prague (we’ve only been here for 3 years) but we have been here long enough to say good bye to good friends and those who could have been good friends. It’s hard to live and build community when you never know how long someone will be around, or even how long you will be around.

I love not having a car. I love that I don’t have to pay for gas or car insurance or deal with fixing it when it brakes. I love that I get more exercise without even trying here just from all the walking. I love that my transportation doesn’t use up as many resources and I’m not having as negative of an effect on the world around me.
…But, I don’t really like actually using public transportation. I don’t like that it takes me twice as long to get across the city as it would with a car. I don’t like that if I miss the tram I have to stand out in the cold sometimes for 10 or 15 minutes. I don’t like squeezing onto a crowded tram or metro, worrying about pick-pockets, or the smell. And I don’t like that my husband doesn’t like to talk on public transportation so we rarely are able to have conversations on the way to and from places.

I love the friends we have here and I love living life with them. We do know some really amazing people here. We have friends here who really care about us as individuals and as a couple and who already really love Thaddeus. We have friends here who by their very lives and generosity have poured out blessing after blessing upon us and we are so grateful to know them and be in community with them.
…But, living life with these friends means not living daily life with other friends and family in the states, who also care about us deeply. I don’t like that.

Well, Thaddeus just woke up from his nap so… that’s all for now, folks!

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic

There are definitely similarities between Christmas in the Czech Republic and Christmas in the states, but there are also some rather unique differences in the ways that Czech’s celebrate the season and I thought I’d share some of them with you all today.

Like my family, Czech’s decorate Christmas trees, but unlike my family traditionally Czech families wait to decorate the tree till Christmas Eve. In the Czech Republic Christmas eve is when the real festivities happen.

This evening Czech families will gather for Christmas Eve dinner, which is traditionally made up of fried carp (and or carp soup) and potato salad (not what I would call a traditional Christmas dinner). I don’t know if you know anything about carp, but it’s a fish that most people (in the states at least) would consider basically in-edible because it is mostly bones. But, what makes the carp eating even stranger to me is that a few days before Christmas Eve large tubs of carp will appear on the sidewalks for people to buy it off the street. When you buy your carp you can choose to have it killed there, but many people will take their carp home and have it live in the bath tub for a few days. If they choose to take it home then the men of the family will kill the carp on Christmas Eve. I’ve never had carp, but this whole idea seems more than a bit strange to me.

After dinner the superstitions start showing up. It’s said that Christmas Eve is a magic time when people can see into the future and maybe even influence their futures. There are many things that a Czech family might do after dinner to try and predict the future. One such tradition begins with cutting an apple in half; if the core of the apple is in the shape of a five-pointed star then you will have health and happiness in the next year. If instead of a five-pointed star your apple core is in the shape of a cross then you can expect an unlucky year ahead.

Another such Czech tradition is the floating of walnut shells. Each person gets a half of a walnut shell and places a small candle in the shell and lights it. The shells are then placed in a large bowl of water. If your walnut shell makes it across the bowl reaching the other side then you will have a long and healthy life, if it sinks then that means bad luck.

The Czech’s also have a number of Christmas Eve traditions that are supposed to foretell marriage. One of these traditions is that an unmarried girl can cut a twig off of a cherry tree on December 4th (St. Barbora’s Day) and place the branch in water, if it blooms by Christmas Eve then that girl will marry within a year. The other marriage predicting tradition is that after dinner on Christmas Eve an unmarried girl is supposed to throw a shoe over her shoulder towards the door. If the shoe lands with the tow pointing the door then the girl will be leaving home to get married within a year.

After the dinner and fortune telling the children will be sent up to their rooms or somewhere away from the Christmas tree. This is the time when Ježíšek comes. Ježíšek is baby Jesus, and for the Czech children he brings their presents instead of Santa Claus. After the children have been away for a little while a bell will be rung and they will rush back to the tree where they will find the tree lights on for the first time and their presents now under the tree.

So, that’s a little bit of what a traditional Czech Christmas Eve might look like. Wherever you may find yourself today and whatever your own family and cultural traditions may be for this day, I pray that this day is filled with true hope and deep laughter for you.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.