"East Europe 2005-06" story # 8

Rymarov, Czech Republic           October 9, 2005

Practically everyone in Rymarov wanted me to teach them English, it seemed.
     I quickly became a part-time teacher at two high schools. I teach thirteen lessons a week between the two. My students are overwhelmingly female: almost 90%. I don't know why that is, but I like it.
     The boys and girls I teach are mostly from fifteen to as much as twenty years old. Seeing as how it's the Czech Republic and not the U.S., I could conceivably see any of these students out at the bar. This means that if I'm out with my goofy friends, I can't do something wild like pour beer down my pants, because I'm a distinguished member of the community.
     The schools are less conservative than in the States, also. I prepared a journal entry of mine for one class to read. It spoke about hitchhiking and getting picked up by people on drugs, but another teacher assured me it's fine to talk about that.
     The females' dress is more conservative than what's being worn by American girls these days. Many wear classy sweaters or sweatshirts. Short hair is popular, as is hair dyed a bit red. I teach many very beautiful girls.
     One is seventeen with grayish-hazel hair and a face like a duckling.
     Another is younger, has long blond hair white like a witch and a full body, and might be the most gorgeous female I've ever seen.
     Though their dress may be classy, because some girls start going to bars at age fifteen, they don't necessarily stay young longer than Americans. My older girls often give the same, uninspired response when asked what their hobbies are: "swimming, eating, sleeping, and drinking (alcohol)."
     The boys play more video games. Most of them have short, buzzed hair. Like Czech females, few are overweight.
     Some of my students are very interesting. One browner-skinned boy plays great classical piano, has learned many obscure dances in the local dance class, and likes sports. A short-cherry-haired girl is a poet and would like to study journalism or acting. Other students enjoy snowboarding, skiing, horse-back riding, ice hockey, American football, tennis, movies, pottery, musical instruments, art, or dance groups.
     And, nearly all of my students are nice and fun. A rare few appear as if they'd rather be dead than in my class.
     We spend most of my classes conversing. A few students speak great English, most speak a little, and some speak virtually nothing. Either way, we usually laugh a lot.
     The second-funniest thing happened when a black-haired seventeen-year-old announced that she'd seen me over the weekend in Praded, the local bar.
     "Oh," I said. "What was I doing when you saw me?" I wanted to make sure I wasn't doing anything stupid.
     Vojta, a computer guy, raised his hand. "That's funny that Misha saw you in Praded on Saturday," he said with the smart-ass voice of someone busting an authority figure, "because I saw you there during the week."
     Now, I knew I was going to Praded a lot. But, I couldn't let the kids know that. "Okay. Did anybody else see me at the bar last week? No? No. Okay, well then, we'll just say those were the only two nights I went to Praded." There.
     Misha raised her hand. "Actually, I saw you TWO NIGHTS at Praded." I was losing control.
     I went home and told my friend, Klara, about it. Klara told me I should've said to them, "Yeah, well why didn't you come over and say 'hello.' You could've had a tea with me. Instead, you sat there drinking beer with your friends."
     The funniest thing happened in a class of fifteen-year-olds. There was a dark-haired girl, Zuzana, with a spunky, trouble-making face. She was talking during my class, speaking with a friend across the room. I made her stand up and told her to tell me in English what she'd just said.
     Very confidently, she: "I say, 'I like Tarzan."
     She was obviously talking about me with my height and long hair. I ignored that. "Actually, Susanna, it's: 'I said, 'I like Tarzan.' You can sit down now."
     The third-funniest thing happened when an eleven-year-old girl - heeding the advice of a friend whispering in her ear - said, "I am a dog." She'd meant to say she has a dog.
     Students in the Czech Republic can go to a high school for four years or eight years. If they go for eight years, they begin when they're eleven. I have one class with these young kids, and they're adorable.
     We sit in a circle. They don't know much English, but they really want to talk to me. Their honey-blue eyes shine, their brown pigtails swim, and their whale-wide smiles sing. All fifteen of them had a unique hobby, from floorball to bowling to aerobics to hip-hop dancing to horses. My favorite response was from blondish, nature-looking Yola, whose hobby was: "butterflies."
     After our first class together, Jackma and Andrea played me a duet on the room's piano. Each kid requested my autograph somewhere on his school notebook. I personalized all fifteen, writing something like, "Go dance aerobics with your guinea pig, Tereza!"
     During our second class, the kids gathered around while I told them about my photographs. (Hopefully, they'll bring their pictures next week.) They were unhappy when I had to leave class early, but I'd promised to visit the other eleven-year-olds.
     I moved to the other class and all these cute Czech kids staring up at me. Tall, tight-ponytailed Kate and bigger Mirka were among the students who most rapidly shot up their hands to ask me questions. There was also tiny Mirka, a tiny mouse so tiny it was hard to believe her tiny head could even speak. And David in the back row shot completely out of his seat up in the air each time he energetically raised his hand.
     Finally, tiny Mirka asked, "What sports do you play?"
     I said, "Baseball," and then realized I had a soft ball in my pocket. I threw it to tiny Mirka, who tried to bat it with her hands.
     "Oh! Oh!" David was leaping around in the back row for his chance. I tossed it to him, and he nailed a home run into the ceiling.
     All thirty arms in the room reached victoriously in the air, they cheered, "Yay!" for David and applauded. They wanted me to bat, and I smacked a hard home run too. They cheered like it was the Super Bowl.
     Afterwards, I had fifteen more autographs to sign. "You hit a home run, David!" was one.

- Modern Oddyseus

Thanks to Pepa; a friendly bespectacled man; Osklacek; and Jeto for the rides!

go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com