One other person in the Czech Republic who takes good care of me is Andreka. She's one of the best friends of my best Czech friend, Klara Sigmundova, and Andreka has assumed responsibility for the take-care-of-Justin business in Klara's absence.
She's young but partially owns her own snowboarding-and-ski-rental shop in the Czech mountains. The mountains, though modest, constantly receive fresh tonnages of snow. The forests muffle wind and sound, creating a soft and silent neighborhood for Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother. And though the green toothpick pines are hounded by parasitic snow, they are warrior giants capable of coming to life at any time and crushing you.
Andreka gave me warm clothes to wear. The first time I visited her, she also provided me with a snowboarding instructor. She said his name was Cert. I made sure I'd heard her correctly. Cert is Czech for "Devil."
"Devil" only spoke Czech. He had a ton of crazy, wild-man energy. And he was a good teacher. He taught me how to balance on my snowboard while a difficult bar carried me up the mountain; he taught me how to turn more smoothly; and he was slightly successful in teaching me to jump into deep snow and ride off the main slope.
Later, in the bar, he taught me to say, "Cert zabije!" (Cert kills!) I love saying that! It's cool slang. "Justin zabije!" Cert said to Andreka.
He loved me as a friend almost immediately. After our hour lesson, we went together to try "skoky" (jumps). We went to the top of the mountain. A worn track in the snow led steeply down to a big, man-made bulge in the slope. Cert loves "skoky." He went off the jump, flew, and tried some cool trick where he grabbed his board or spun around or something. Cert zabije!
I was going to try a trick called the "Please, God, Don't Let Me Break Something." I sped down without braking and got launched into the air. I had about as much control over where I was going and how I would land as a missile has. I fell into the deep snow and bounced eventually to a stop. It was awesome.
We practiced "skoky" for an hour. I didn't break anything, and Cert improved his acrobatics. He was a happy devil.
His short, dark hair and beard-stubble seem to grow erratically and don't maintain even lengths. His hair feels crusty, which is why - according to Andreka - he's called Cert.
At he bar, he also spoke and gesticulated with rabid energy. He spoke of his other love, for paragliding. He got mad at the girls for not liking him. He said to Andreka, about me: "On neba se od nic," (He's not afraid of anything) and, "Justin zabije!"
Andreka wears thin blond braids to her mid-back. She likes snowboarding, mountain-biking, and mountain-climbing. Her face is as artistic as a Russian glass doll. She speaks great English. But, during the first few times she met me, it was common for her to say warmly, "Mluv cesky, Justine!" (Speak Czech, Justin!)
So, of course, I accepted her invitation to visit again after Christmas. When we first came upon Cert, he was again in a bar - a dark bar.
He was running around, yelling, "Punk's not dead! Punk's not dead!" (Czechs mimic devils by putting two fingers to their heads like horns and wiggling them, while yelling "Gobble-obble-obble"; Cert's behavior was similar.) He grabbed me with a hug that almost knocked me over. "Justin! Mi amigo!
"Justine," he quickly said, "ty chces poslouchat dobrou kapele od meho mesta? Ale, musis dat mi pet korun." (Justin, do you want to hear a good band from my hometown? You have to give me five crowns, though.) I gave him five crowns, and we went to the computer jukebox. He let me pick a song by the band, "Elektricky Mann." He was very excited.
The song I picked was called, "Vsechno co je od be je dobre." (Everything that starts with B is good.) It was one of the best song names I've ever heard. Cert and I sang along to the chorus:
(translated) "Everything that starts with B is good.
Cert and I shared beers, talked about our hometowns, and said often that he or I "zabije." The next day, we tried more jumps. Cert almost did a three-sixty. I managed to land one jump without falling.
Andreka gave me sandwiches and pancakes. Surprisingly, though, she started responding to my occasional Czech with persistent English, and she asked all kinds of questions about how to say many little things in English. This turned me off from her a bit, I must say, and I started to be silent around her.
Luckily, I've learned something from my high school students. They were given the option of free-writing about one of several abstract or creative topics. One was, "How do you know when a friend is a really good friend?" Several students wrote that a good friend always tells you what he thinks about you, even what he doesn't like about you.
So, I must behave as a good friend to Andreka. I can't be silent. I must tell her I don't feel good when she studies from me without seeing me.
She's important to me, and I'd be sad without her. Perhaps the highlight of my second visit to Andreka's was when she and I three-stepped lovely waltz in the snow outside her shop at midnight.
And, as for Cert? You've gotta be kidding if you think anything can threaten a friendship like ours. "Cert zabije!"
- Modern Oddyseus
Thanks to Lada; and the Feldmanove couple for rides!
Much thanks to Andreka, Pavel, Bobr, Bobr, & the others for the place to stay again!