As Claire and I drove into Ostrava today she asked me, "Do you remember the first time you were in Ostrava?"
Oh yes, I sure do.
It was September, 1993. Dave and I were visiting the potential city we would move to (Haviřov) and went into Ostrava, the big city a half hour away, so he could assure me I'd be fine (there was a McDonalds!) living in this part of the country.
Honestly, it was very sobering to be there that day. The city was dirty, the air polluted, the smell of coal everywhere, and there was little to buy in the shops. I said "yes" in faith to living here, knowing that if God was calling us (He was) that He would take care of me (which He did).
Fast forward to today.
If this picture looks like it's smoggy, it's because it is. The air is still polluted in this area of Czech, though is much better than it was nearly 20 years ago when we first visited.
But there have been many changes here, one of which we were about to enjoy today!
Built on the site of the oldest mine shaft in Ostrava, a new mall...no, I can't even call it a mall...this is a destination!...opened in Ostrava today.
We have honestly been watching the transformation of this particular site for about 15 years. It's in a prime location of real estate in Ostrava, but when it was purchased years ago, we understand that there was contamination in the ground because of the mine, and the land had to be regenerated before it could be built on.
Today was the fulfillment of that regeneration! I am telling you...I have NEVER seen a destination shopping mall like this one. It was truly spectacular, and so fun to be there on opening day!!
Lo and behold...(okay, I knew it'd be in the mall and have been counting the months, weeks and days to its opening)...there was Starbucks, right at the top of the escalator!!!!
Happy Day!!!! I never, ever thought I'd see the day that Starbucks came to Ostrava. I'm glad they proved me wrong!
The store is beautiful (though I think they'll wish they had a bigger space...it was completely full of people today!), and the service, magnificent!! Believe it or not, I even got to meet the Brand President of Starbucks for Europe who, ironically (or not!) is from OREGON!!!! We had such a nice chat...I felt like I was "home"!
I picked up my little tutoring buddy from his school in Ostrava today (his mom is sick) and brought him with us to Starbucks to do his reading homework. How fun is that??!!
Claire did her homework too, while enjoying a chai tea, soy, latte!!
Totally made my day to sit there and soak in this historic moment.
Our friend, Lucy, showed up as we were getting ready to leave (it's just like a neighborhood Starbucks where you see your friends!) so we asked her to get a photo of us to capture this day.
I've loved life here all these years, and didn't need Starbucks or a new mall to make life better...we have an incredible life already. But part of the joy of this day is the intersection of our American selves with our Czech selves...and somehow Starbucks just represents a part of "home" to us, both there and now here!
And...I gotta say...it definitely makes life more fun knowing it's here now! :)
I'm sure they'll be seeing me a time or two (three, four, five...) in the years to come.