Friday was our last day of work at Narnia before Christmas break. I love Fridays because I go to lunch with the youngest kids, especially now that the girls of the class and I have finally begun to see eye to eye on the sitting arrangement. Previously, any given girl would point to herself, two friends, and me; not really knowing what that meant I would say okay and smile and nod. Then the same thing would happen with another set of three girls, and then another. Then we would get to lunch and there would be hurt feelings and little girls saying that they were supposed to be sitting with me but instead they were sitting with a table of savage boys (at least, that’s what I imagined they were saying). Anyway, a few weeks ago I wisened up. I decided that on the days I go with Green Class, I will say yes to the first three kids who ask to sit with me and no to everyone else. They figured out the system pretty quick. Last Thursday Katka came up to me and said, Mrs. Lizzie, Katka, Natalka, Peťka; she was first, so I concented. Less than a minute later, Anička appeared with a similar request, “Mrs. Lizzie, Anička, Stanka, Katuška.” “Sorry Anička, I’m sitting with Katka, Natlaka and Peťka.” She was sad, but she understood. The next day before I even went into the class to get the kids to line up for lunch, Anička stuck her head out the door and saw me, “Mrs. Lizzie, Anička, Stanka, Katuška.” Obviously no one else even had the chance to make their own appeal yet so I said yes and she was thrilled. It was not until we got to the cafeteria, however, that I realized in her elation she had forgotten to mention the plan to Stanka and Katuška. A little bit of a predicament, but we worked it out, the only problem was that the same thing happened the next week.

Narnia really got into the Christmas spirit with class parties throughout the last week of school, but on Friday the celebration was extended to the teachers. When I arrived at school, about ten Green Class kids took me by the hand (all at once) and pulled me out to the Christmas tree to show me that there were wrapping paper ornaments hanging from the tree with all of the teachers names on them. They tried to express to me that it wasn’t just a decoration, and I heard them all asking each other “Ako sa povie darček po anglicky?” I knew it meant “gift” so I told them, but they didn’t think that I could possibly understand, so as far as they knew I was just saying gibberish. After lunch one of the other teachers told me that these gifts were prepared entirely by Stanka, so during snack with green class I opened my darček with her. It was one of those little bead things that you iron into a little coaster, and it was my very first Christmas present this year.

As each of the kids went home on Friday, I wished them Merry Christmas, and I was entertained by their various responses. The older children said the same back without hesitation and some of the younger ones just stared blankly. One of my favorites was a girl in Green Class who looked at me, paused, and then walked away. After walking to her mother, she promptly returned saying “Merry Christmas” and gave me a hug. Another one of my favorites started out the exact same way, but her dad told her to say, “You too, Merry Christmas.” It was sweet, but what really made it special was when she and her brother from orange class came back with their baby brother, counted to three, and said in unison, “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Lizzie.”

As we were leaving Narnia, Burke wanted to wish the cleaning lady Merry Christmas in Slovak. She is very sweet, but unfortunately Burke told her to have a “Terrible Christmas” instead of “Happy Christmas.” Not that he’s to blame, the words are so similar Happy-šťastný and Terrible-strašně.

Although school is over, we still had two days of work this week. On Monday and Tuesday we had a teacher training getaway in a picturesque cottage in the hills outside of Banska Bystrica. It could not have been more beautiful and was a very festive way to spend the beginning of our break. After the activities were over, Burke was able to try skiing for the first time. He was pretty determined that he would be a natural, and it sounds like he did quite well. (I have a pretty strašně cough so I didn’t think it would be the best idea for me to be out).

On another note, one day as we were heading to the Christmas market, we were greeted with a surprise. Usually when people try to hand things to us or sell us something we say, “We only speak English,” and they don’t really object. However, on this particular occasion, the young man replied, “Hey, that’s okay with me.” It was a cold night so his winter clothing disguised the fact that he was a Morman! We had heard about them being here and even saw them walking around town a few times, but it was our first actual instance meeting them. We spoke to them for a moment (one was from Utah, the other Kentucky), but another man required their attention so we went on to the market.

I don’t recall if I mentioned this, but we are house and dog sitting for some friends while they are in the US for Christmas. We’ve known about this for months, but only just this last week some other friends asked us to pet sit for them too. So currently living in this house is Burke and myself, our cat Nici, Bones the dog, two gerbils, and two turtles. (Burke likes to say we will start charging admission to our petting zoo.) But let’s not forget that we will soon add Burke’s parents to the list. Tomorrow we’re driving to Vienna to pick them up from the airport and we’ll be back in the evening, ready to begin the Christmas celebration.

Merry Christmas everyone. We are praying that you have a wonderful Christmas and can really spend some time thinking about the meaning of the holiday. God Bless:)