Once my conversation with the Austrian priest had finished, I stepped out of his car on the tiny highway that cuts a sharp dissecting path through cute pink Puysdorf, on a sunny day. I got a ride to the Czech Republic.
I was relieved to be out of busy and self-overvaluing Western Europe. I returned for ten days to the town where I used to teach. The town of 10,000, at 2000 feet altitude, was mostly void of snow finally, though on April 11th wet flakes did slush the fresh air. The friendly air of Rýmarov is my home in Europe. My visit here would treat me well.
One of my former students, fourteen-year-old Marek, had made a movie during the time I was gone. Clean-cut Marek wears glasses and fluffy blond spiky hair, is smart but perhaps too well-mannered, and wants to direct quality movies when he´s older.
His newest movie he showed me was two minutes long and silent. Marek´s wonderful camera angles added suspense as they depicted Marek´s friends engaged in a fight. The movie´s "good guy" was able to vanish completely when he needed to, which I guess was the movie´s theme. When asked afterwards if he believes people can fly, Marek gave me his bright smile and said, "I think anybody can do anything that he believes he can do."
Marek´s school-mate, nineteen-year-old Niko, had given up drugs since I´d last seen her. She´d been the student who told me a line of pervotine had chased her in her dreams. Her eyes with blue eye-shadow are hot enough to make you a lump of coal, and she speaks to me Czech with a loud excitement. She only needs someone to believe in her. I do. ... I MUST remember to send her a postcard.
A third ex-student had recently given up cigarettes. She also told me she doesn't do drugs: "I can be happy without them."
This class-mate (but not friend) of Niko's, mouse-sized red-ponytailed Renáta, isn't a very social girl. She mostly likes to read; she says every book says something different, but people often say the same thing. But, she invited me to her house thirteen kilometers from Rýmarov.
It felt special to be let into the room of someone like her. She and her nice, mischievous (self-sure) smile interest me because they're tough to get to know. When I'd once made her contribute to a story we were telling in class, she killed the main character and smiled proudly. Another time, she refused to speak after I made a joke about her. (I still say it was a good joke.)
We played with Renáta's rats. She showed me her abstract paintings, which she loves to make but can only make when she's sad. (Five paintings "with circles" are her favorites, one was of a big Mars.) She laughed as we watched "Happy Tree Friends."
Her favorite book is "Harry Potter." She believes in magic.
The last thing she told me was that she believes in Satanic religion. It was difficult for her to explain to me what it's about. But, she said, she doesn't kill babies.
I read to her some of my stories. I enjoyed our day together, it's too bad we didn't have more than one.
The face of seventeen-year-old Krist'yna like a frozen pond has such an exaggerated beauty as to make me feel powerless and sad. She was perhaps the high schooler I spent the most time with. She's very social. In summer she and friends drink beers on some distant roof-top that watches Rýmarov from a dark hill. We went there one cool April night. "From here, Rýmarov looks like a big city." She observed the small town's lights which stretched out from the tall cone-top of the church.
While in town, I even enjoyed some natural kisses. But, on other days, when I just wanted to go meet bar friends and drink, my best Czech friend Klára Sigmundová was there to kiss me so I wouldn't break my vows. Thanks, sweet Klara!
The bar friends were great. Hent'a, with his happy-cartoon-puppy-dog smile, gave me a tripping-over-itself hug. Pavel, the smily-drunken-bear and mechanical engineering student, went on and on in diffecult-to-understand Czech telling me about atom bombs and teleportation.
I laughed so much with some friends that I felt like I was home in Michigan.
Kamil is an intelligent guy who studied English literature in college. But, he gets silly when he drinks, and he came from Prague to Rýmarov for a night 'cause I was there, and he was in a mood to drink. We spent the night talking about making a winter restaurant whose walls were fire, and about how it's a shame that armadillos tend to jump when they're scared and they thus get hit by many cars.
And, finally, twenty-five-year-old Libor had been an adult student of mine. He teaches in a music school, loves skateboarding and snowboarding, and is just plain "hustý" (cool). "Wow, to bylo rychly," (Wow, that was fast) I said when he gave me a thumbs-up sign. We continued all night practicing thumbs-ups. I said he should interrupt his band "Bratri Orffové's" next concert and do a thumb solo.
Oh, it was great to be in a small town where I knew so much of the population. I rejoined my all-ages friends for Wednesday night basketball and cards and "slivovice" (harsh local alcohol), but I missed the Friday evening ballroom-dance lessons for students. So, I didn't dance any waltz, darn!
The Czech culture was nevertheless at its best. A movie, "Jedna Ruka Netleská" (One Hand Can't Clap), combined stupid characters with a Seinfeldian humor. It was awesome - see this movie if you can!
In one scene, a character stood on a roof because he didn't want to answer a stranger's questions. He'd just been unknowingly fed "magic-mushroom tea" by the stranger's alternative daughter. He said (translated) dreamily, "I don't need to jump. I'll fly! Like a bird ... like an eagle." Then, he fell on and broke the stranger's arm, and he ran hopping and flapping his arms into the forest.
Young director Marek was my film recommendor. Klara Sigmundová was my preferred cook.
Mmm, mmm! On one day, she cooked "syrové omacka" (cheese stew), on my list of world's best foods. Chicken breast, cream, and cheese were mixed in a wok and served hot and gooey with explosive taste. Potato puree accompanied it. For dinner, we ate a cake with chocolate crummy outside and creamy banana inside. Mmm.
On my final day in Rymarov, Klara cooked "francouský bramborové" (French potatoes) and borscht. The potato dish was tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes naturally, cooked in a pan with a layer of cheese on top. The borscht was a pink delectable soup whose most-prominent ingredients were beef, cabbage, and beets.
We went that night with Libor and another friend to "Medved" (Bear) Pub, my favorite bar (of many bars) in Rymarov. It's the last bar to close, therefore we only go there when we're having too much fun to sleep when we should. From the outside, it looks like a Medieval dungeon. Inside, the booths are padded with 1960's maroon cushions. The air, for some reason, seems darker than normal air, and the wooden bar seems to hide the gate to hell behind it. We drank big cheap beers and "zelena" (green), a weak shot, until the middle-aged barwoman was ready to sleep.
What a great town.
"Pozdravuj pocestní, svet je malej, dokonalej." (Say hi to people on the street, the world is small, perfect.) - Dívokej Bill (the song, "Plakala")
- Modern Oddyseus
Thanks to Janush; Lenka; and Jiri Shindilar for the rides!
Much thanks to Albina, Igor, Niki, & Katka; and Klára for the places to stay!