I think I am writing these things down so I don’t forget. I may be repeating myself from earlier accounts, but I am in a different place now. I am no longer there, I am here. As I said a while back, it is almost like I never left California to travel 7,000 miles to live and work in the Czech Republic. But the more I look at my pictures, the more I realize that they contain a lifetime of memories of people and places and food; of laughs and tears and knee surgery and language difficulties and surprises and smells and interesting cultural customs. So like a grandfather to his grandchildren I may keep repeating the same stories over and over again to visitors to the “home” be patient and humor the old fart. That said, we move on…
Re-reading the first two parts of this reflection it seems like Fall lasted forever, but it really didn’t. There was my first visit to Rožnov pod Radhoštěm (A Wallachian wood village and living museum) with the Minton’s and my first taste of dumplings in goat cheese sauce. And dinners with Hana and Karel and Krystof and Susan. I began to experience not only the goodness of people but their generous hospitality and inclusiveness directed towards an ignorant American who even had trouble finding the Czech Republic on a map. I determined then and there to read up on Czech history and educate myself and try even harder with my pronunciation. I experienced small generosities that made my life so much easier like when Karel, after a long day as assistant headmaster of the local high school came over to my flat to attach my shower wand to the wall so I could have a proper western shower in my old soviet style tub. It really doesn’t sound like much, but it was. It was a ginormous gift (a new word for your American language notebook, Hana).
I had been waiting for Winter to arrive in the same way as the characters on Game of Thrones kept saying “Winter is coming.” Does this mean the White Walkers would invade Vsetín? Was I doomed? Everyone of the locals I talked with warned me about the cold, dark winter months that lay ahead and I should prepare myself for extreme cold and even blizzards in this part of the world. To say I was apprehensive would be an understatement. I had brought with me boots, jackets, long under wear, mittens and scarves. I was prepared. But I was from Northern California, what did I know of snow? I imagined myself
limping to school in the darkness of an early morning, falling down in a snow drift and not being found until the Spring thaw. (No TV in my flat allowed me to dream up such dramatic scenarios in my head). And not to leave you in suspense, the winter was mild according to Czech standards with the first snow arriving in late November. I awoke on the 26th of November to snow covered streets outside my window. Of course, like an idiot I walked outside in my t-shirt to feel the snow falling. Bundled up people on the street must have thought I was insane. Well, I suppose they were right. I only stayed outside for a short while before returning to my toasty flat to watch the snow from my glassed in porch. Well, I thought, this isn’t so bad after all. As the winter progressed I had a feeling that the snow-loving ski-loving Czechs were blaming me for the mild snowfall, perhaps thinking I had brought the weather from my home state with me. Although the snowfall was not blizzardly (new word), the temperatures were bone chilling. I later experienced this as the winter days became shorter and the nights became longer. When I was outside I just couldn’t keep warm.
(Coming next, Christmas Markets in villages and my students)
..and so it went…