I don’t speak Slovak.
Sometimes that gets exhausting. One of my friends is considering a trip to see us and I suggested meeting in Barcelona just for the sheer fact that I could spend some time in a country where I speak the language! (And also it appears to be one of the greatest cities on earth;)
On the whole, we absolutely love this country. We love the architecture, the spectacular views, the incredibly efficient transit, the minimalism, attention to recycling and the overall sense that you are part of something bigger than yourself (therefore it is your responsibility to do your part).
The aspects we struggle with are 1. the language. 2. the complete and utter lack of details and 3. the shyness/directness of this culture.
- The language. It is so hard. And there are more people who don’t speak English than I suspected. V and I walked around in cold rain last night looking for a new volleyball gym we were supposed to show up at. We asked no less than 4 people to help us- none spoke any English and only one attempted to get out her phone to try to help. Joe gently set down a stick yesterday in a patch of green before we entered the mall complex. Before I knew what happened, an elderly Slovak lady lit into him in Slovak for…..setting the stick down? We joked afterwards that it was probably better NOT to know what she was yelling?? We were headed into the mall to go to a movie- an opportunity to sit in the theater and get absorbed into an adventure on screen. I looked online and was sure I had all the details correct (see #2). As I’m about to buy the tickets for “Dolittle”, I see one little word next to our movie, “dabing.” I wish it were the funny dance move but alas, it means “dubbed.” Our virtual adventure was thwarted by the language barrier.
- The lack of details. While walking around last night looking for the gym, I stared at the screen shot the coach sent me. There are no distinguishable street names on this screen shot. The place it *looks* like we should have gone on the screen shot was surrounded with barbed wire and had signs about vicious dogs. We felt a little like a baby thrown into a pool to see if we would drown or not. We found it. 30 minutes late. And I give credit to V- she was soaking wet and cold but threw on her volleyball shoes and got out on the court to deal with #1 (the language) for an hour. I was exhausted just watching. John has to visit the “key guy” each day before he teaches who, of course, doesn’t speak English but who is the guardian of all keys to a complicated set of classrooms. Can you imagine this interaction?? Somehow he has managed to get into his classrooms (different ones with multiple keys) each day so far.
- Culturally, Slovaks are very shy, direct and QUIET. I have already written about how I spend A LOT of energy trying to assimilate my kids to this quietness. It is widely known that we do not have a quiet family- none. of. us. are quiet people. Every day I strike a balance between allowing them to be the kids that they are and respecting the culture of the community we are living in here. Sometimes I get really frustrated because as an adult, I have no problem changing the way I behave to fit the circumstances. But, my kids aren’t old enough or mature enough to do that the same way. We are also getting used to the fact that we will be shown displeasure when it is discovered that we don’t speak the language, don’t know the details and well, are loud.
Today we will head to Brno to see the the city for one night and then head tomorrow for a weekend with family.