Bratislava – February 2012

While we were in Kenya we learned that we had been given an appointment at the Czech Embassy in the capital of Slovakia. Of course it had to be postponed until we returned home. We were informed on Tuesday that we needed to be at the embassy on Friday for a 1:30pm interview. We bustled around to make arrangements. Curt purchased the tickets and Sandra organized the bags. We put out a call for prayer because it was our first trip to Slovakia. We had no idea where the Czech Embassy was nor how to get there from the train station.

God made the way!

Bright and early Friday morning we caught the tram to the main train station. After four hours of enjoyment on the smooth and comfortable EuroCity passenger train we arrived at Bratislava. A dear brother in Christ we’d met several years ago in Lithuania was waiting to pick us up. He drove us to his home where we caught up with his wife and two children – warm welcome to their sunny apartment.

Then our friend took us by bus to the Czech Embassy as parking in the particular downtown area is difficult. It’s right next to the US Embassy, if you ever need to find it. On the way he took us to a small, out of the way hotel where he asked the receptionist if we could see an available room. It was small by American standards but neat and clean and very spiffy, not to mention a good price. AND it was right next to St. Michael’s Gate, one of only two sights Sandra wanted to see, as well as the whole downtown pedestrian area – restaurants, shops, museums, etc. We couldn’t have found a better spot if we’d researched day and night. (Thanks, A.)

Our friend translated for us when we arrived and a ‘clerk’ tried to tell us we were in the wrong place. Then he waited for us as we were interviewed separately; Sandra for 30 minutes and Curt for 15. The main issues we were asked to address had to do with Lifework Forum; how big we are (just us), how we get ‘clients’ (which we don’t do), why we’re incorporated (to prove to the IRS that we don’t have any profit to tax), and so on. It was really quite a challenge to try to explain what we do through Lifework Forum (visit friends) in another language and culture when we’re not very good at it in English with Americans.

Our friend took us back to the apartment so we could pick up our overnight bag. We had another quick chat with the family before they took us and dropped us near our hotel. Oh, the joy to relax. We went out for a late lunch, sitting and reading afterwards in the warmth of a cafe surrounded by walls covered with full bookshelves. We decided they made the coffee and hot chocolate taste better. We wandered a bit more and ended up at a spot where we enjoyed dinner Irish style – go figure. We shared stories with people from the UK, Norway, France, Slovakia, and the USA. It was quite an international night!

Thankfully the breakfast tables stayed open until 10:30am because we slept in late. After scoffing up croissants with butter and jam, yogurt, cereal, and the usual European cold cuts and cheese, we were ready to set out to discover some sights in daylight. The second sight on Sandra’s list was the castle, but we learned it was closed for renovations. That was actually good news because the temperatures were so cold that we would have been frozen if we’d attempted to walk that far. As it was the pedestrian area was almost deserted. We made our way to the Primates Palace where we saw six English tapestries that were discovered in Slovakia after the world wars, but nobody knows how or when they got there. We also visited the hall of mirrors where Bush and Putin held a summit. One of our happiest spots was the Oxford Book Shop where we found an On Sale table.

Our newly re-acquainted friends picked us up and took us to a pizza restaurant in a major mall for lunch. It was a bit odd to hear us ordering in Slovak, but the pizza was delicious – so much better than what we’ve found in Prague so far. Then the children went off to play air hockey and we got down to the nitty gritty of talking education with the parents. By the time we needed to head back to the train station there was no doubt that God had other important reasons beyond our visa application for us to go to Bratislava.

The return train was delayed 80 minutes and we hid from the cold in a small cafe. The frigid air seemed to spur all the travelers into jumping on the train during its three minute pause. The run between Budapest and Prague is obviously a regular and well-used trip. We’re already considering it as a way to visit friends in Hungary. Since that will take six hours we’ll just need to add cribbage or dominoes to our pack lunch. Of course arriving at the Prague train station so much later was a bit discouraging. Instead of walking outside to take the tram back to our stop we chose the metro which has an entrance directly from the station.

Home again, home again jiggedy jog!

Please do pray with us that the Lord would grant us favor in receiving a positive response to our visa application. We’ve been told that we should hear in a couple of weeks, but we’re not sure. In the meantime and beyond we rest in the verse sent to us today by a faithful friend.

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2 Corinthians 4:1 KJV

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