Thursday, October 31, 2013

Parcel or "Partial" Post?

One of the things we counted as a plus to being in Central Europe is that regular mail, such as letters & post cards, make it to us between 6-9 days. (When we lived in Moscow, it wasn't uncommon to receive Christmas cards in February, if we received them at all.) We've already received some very kind notes and a birth announcement, and it's always great to hear from friends & family.  Given this speedy rate of delivery, we were hopeful that we would have equal success in receiving care packages or boxes of goodies from friends & family. 

Unfortunately, we had a very difficult time with our first package. Some of it was our fault; some of it is just the particularity with witch Czech Post handles parcels. 

Before we left the states, Christiana had packed a box of miscellaneous clothing & books (basically all of the "non-essential stuff" that over-weighted our suitcases), addressed it, sealed it, and left it with her parents to send to us in Prague. There was nothing particularly priceless in there, but it was stuff that we wanted back eventually.

The box was mailed on or about the 23rd of August, and approximately 10 days later, we received a notification that it was at the postal customs house. "WOW, how awesome!" Or so we thought. (Again, it was not uncommon in Moscow to receive a parcel several months after it had been shipped.) Unfortunately, attached to that notification was also a whole stack of additional paperwork which we were asked to complete. We discovered that - even with all of the additional documentation we might provide - it didn't guarantee us delivery of our package, at least not right to our door. Assuming we cleared up all of the "problems" with this box, it was still going to be an additional charge for the postman to bring it to the address printed on it!

What had we done wrong? 
Well for starters, we'd used an old blender box - it had a picture of a very expensive kitchen appliance on it. 
Strike one. 
The customs declaration only said "personal items" - it didn't itemize clothes, shoes or books. It was also not marked as a "gift", something which we've learned is essential if we want to receive anything without having to pay additional customs fees for it.
Strike two.
Although there was nothing particularly valuable in the box, it had been insured for more than $40 USD. 
Strike three!

We'll spare you the rest of the tedious details. By God's goodness, we managed to escape a hefty fine in customs, and after two more weeks, six additional papers, and a delivery charge, the box was FINALLY brought to us at school. You know you're suffering from culture shock when it's exciting to receive your old clothes & shoes in the mail.

We've received several requests from readers & friends for our mailing address, and we're glad to provide this to you. However, for anyone who is considering sending us a package of some sort, please, please use the following guidelines before sticking anything in the mail!
  1. Unwrap/untag everything. Take off excess labels, take off price tags. If it's baby clothing, please wash, dry & fold so you can call it "used". Package like things together in Ziploc bags. If something comes with directions, package those separately somehow, perhaps as a "bookmark" in a used book. 
  2. If anyone sends us anything like a DVD, CD, or book, make sure to unwrap it completely & remove the electronic security tag from the inside of the case. Play the disc so it has been "used". Write our last name on covers or inside flaps of books. Again, please make sure all price tags are removed.
  3. List the entire contents of the package on the customs declaration (say "used _________" whenever possible), and make sure it is marked as a GIFT.
  4. Do not insure the package for more than $40! Most people end up paying fines for packages insured over this amount. Regardless of what you've sent us, please don't insure it for a large amount of money.
  5. Try to mail things in bubble envelopes or flat-rate postal boxes. The larger the box, the more likely it is to be snagged for inspection. Do not use commercial packaging - meaning boxes with pictures of toys, electronics or appliances on them. That's a huge red flag.
  6. Please be sure to write the mailing address directly on the package somewhere. Even if  you're told the customs label is enough, it's not.
Packages may be sent to:
Christian International School of Prague
Attn: Brande  - (Please don't put either of our first names on it, because if one of us isn't at school on the day it's delivered, the other one can't claim it without a power of attorney.)
Legerova 5
120 00 Praha 2
Czech Republic

We realize that we've probably just caused most of you to cancel any plans to send us anything for Christmas - we understand. Please know that any regular letter or card is still highly appreciated, and those *can* be delivered to us at no extra charge by the Czech Post.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Quick Break

This weekend is our school's fall break and a Czech Holiday (Independent Czechoslovak State Day to honor the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918). We have Monday and Tuesday off from school and had originally thought of going to Berlin. We realized, though, that with Baby coming, there is still much to do to get our apartment ready for her. So we decided to go explore a Czech castle instead. Some of our friends at school recommended Karlstein Castle built by and for Charles IV.

Sat morning we got up early and took a 30 minute train ride out of the city.  The morning was foggy and grey but we went anyway, hoping the sun would show itself.  When we got to the town, we had to hike 2 km to the castle.  We took our time and enjoyed time together and the beauty of the morning.  We got there just in time for a tour of the main castle.  And when we came out, an hour later, the sun was shining and the fog was gone.  And we were able to get many pictures of the beautiful countryside.  (More pictures are available on our facebook pages)

We spent the afternoon walking back down the mountain, visiting a wax museum, and enjoying a lovely lunch.  At the bottom, we meandered around for a while until we found our little hotel situated on the river.  The hotel even came with a camel, a pig, donkeys, and ducks.  We only stayed one night and returned to Prague this morning.  It was a short get-away, but one that we needed.  Perhaps when Baby B is older, we will go exploring more castles.  Until then, we will finish getting everything ready for her arrival.  Please pray that she will come soon and that the delivery will be smooth and uneventful.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Delayed Updates

Yes, it has been a while since we have blogged or written a newsletter (there is one soon to come).  So let me give you an update on life here. It has been quite a busy 2 months since we arrived here, and it feels like we are just now getting settled in to life and work here -- settled in just in time for Baby B to arrive.  We received our shipment from the States on Sept 3 (the day before school started), and this past week unpacked the last box.  We are still working out where to put everything, but it's looking more and more like a home.  Baby's room is almost ready, and we are more than ready for her to be here.  Her expected due date is Nov 16th, but we are hoping that she comes early.  Christiana has been to the doctor a couple of times and has gotten the registration finalized at the hospital.  So now, we wait.

The first month and a half of school have been filled with lesson plans and crazy days and field trips and most recently the secondary retreat.  We took all the 7th-12 graders (about 35 students) to a camp 2 hrs outside the city for a weekend of spiritual growth and getting to know each other better.  This retreat was quite different than ones we have experienced in the past, as the high school leadership team planned and led most of the weekend, including all the chapel talks.  We were quite impressed with what they did.   It was a good weekend to get away, but we got very little sleep.  We were thankful to come home to our own bed.  Please pray for the students that they will not forget what they heard this weekend, and they will choose to apply it to their everyday lives.

Here are a few pictures: