Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Taste of America: Cornbread Recipe

When I was young, my dad used to put cornbread in a glass of butter milk and eat it with a spoon. And though I don't like butter milk, I used to love it when he did that because it meant I got to eat the rest of the cornbread.

I've been missing cornbread while living in Slovakia but I just recently discovered corn meal in one of the local grocery stores and decided to make it from scratch. (Here is the recipe from Betty Crocker)

It ended up pretty good.  My kids were excited and my son even helped to make it.  My wife had to keep telling them to eat the rest of the meal as they only wanted to eat the cornbread.

There's nothing like a little taste of home. So, here's a piece of cornbread in your honor dad!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

How to vote when you live overseas

The American government bureaucracy is known to be confusing at times, but I just voted in South Carolina's presidential primary (my home state) and it was very easy...even while living thousands of miles away.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) ensures that military personnel and other citizens living overseas are able to vote.  You can visit the official FVAP website and they will walk you through how to contact your state to easily register and receive your absentee ballot.  In most cases, you are able to receive your ballot and vote electronically.

When I completed the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and emailed it to my local county clerks office (as directed step-by-step on the FVAP website), they emailed my ballot the next day and I was able to return it right away.

As you get ready to vote, you will need to make sure you vote within the allowed dates as shown in the South Carolina example below:

Even though I do not currently live in the United States, I still pay close attention to politics and want to make sure I continue to hold my leaders accountable.  One day, I will probably move back and I will be proud to say that I continued to vote even while living overseas.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Slovakia: No Separation of Church and State

Last week, I had a great conversation with a pastor of a smaller denomination here in Slovakia.  It was exciting to see his passion for Christ and the Slovak people.  It was especially interesting to hear about the barriers that a smaller denomination has in Slovakia.

In Slovakia, the separation of church and state is much different than in the United States. The state financially supports the churches based on reported membership and also requires students to either take a religion class (Catholic or Lutheran) or an ethic class (for those that do not want their children taught religion in school).

Below is an interesting chart of the top churches in Slovakia in terms of membership and the state support they received in 2014.

The first column is the church name, followed by the number of members, number of pastors/priests and the amount of state support they received in 2014.

The top five churches in terms of membership are: Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed Christian and Orthodox.  As you can see, the majority of Slovaks are Catholic and the state gave the Roman Catholic church more than $22 million euros in that year (a large amount for such a small country).

As I understand it, these payments are partially designed to make up for the property confiscated from the churches during the communist era.  However, according to a study done in 2014, a majority of Slovaks support changes to the state support of churches.

Our tax accountant is working on our taxes now and this will be my first year paying Slovak taxes.  It will be interesting to see the amount of tax we will pay and how much this goes to support the various churches here in Slovakia.  I would much prefer to have my taxes lowered and instead give this additional amount to the church or charity that I prefer to support.