"East Europe 2005-06" story # 14

Rymarov, Czech Republic           November 25, 2005

Hello, to each "kamarad" (male friend) and "kamaradka" (female friend).
     Here in the Czech Republic, I continue to dance many hours a week. Some of the older students (age sixteen to nineteen) have invited me to their lessons, so I sometimes ballroom-dance on both Thursday and Friday evenings. With the younger students last Friday, I danced again with orange Petra and short, intimidated Tereza. I told Tereza - who is cute but also has strong, mean, feminist-leader eyes - that her black-and-maroon dress was perfect for the tango we were dancing, and she was happy.
     (And on Saturday, four "kamarad"'s and one "kamaradka" and I danced hillariously crazy in the town nightclub. One lanky boy, "Brzy," flashed his arms and legs through the air almost as fast as he humanly could. Pavel just paraded his smile that's as sincere as any, the smile of an over-fed and drunk bear. And Pet'a - whose head is like a serious bulldog's, but who loooves to dance and can be seen training his wild moves in deep concentration - bobbed his ear through the long, dance version of the "What's Love!?" song as seen in "Night at the Roxbury.")
     I continue to teach a lot. Today, I was teaching a conversation class. A group of three boys was talking amongst itself too much in Czech, as was a group of three girls. So, I told the middle girl to get up and switch seats with the middle boy. One of the other girls, Markéta with a baby beaver face, asked in Czech if she could then switch seats with one of the other boys. I said, "If you ask in English, maybe I will say yes." She thought for eight seconds, then said, "Can I change chairs with Michal?" So, I ... SHOUTED ANGRILY, "No!!!" ha ha. Michal laughed big-ly, as did I.
     Brown-haired Michal is funny and an entertainer. Yesterday, students from the public high school put on a two-hour show for each other and the town. Markéta and others danced well-choreographed hip-hop, some students performed naive theatre, one boy dressed up like a white-moustachioed German and did comedy, at least one girl sang, girls modeled pajamas, two guys dressed in drag and got everyone laughing ...
     Michal and his friends danced "electric boogie," with sound effects, and it was like a scene out of a Hollywood movie. They moved their bodies in mechanical robot motions, but fluidly to the beat. This small-town public school has some talented kids. (In a related matter, I was told that during the days of communism the Czech Republic used to be a paradise for children, with all kinds of free activities for them to join.)
     Thirdly, I continue to study Czech. It's interesting what you learn about words, and the relationships between things, when you study different languages. For one example, in Greek, the word for friend ("filos") is similar to the word for kiss ("filo").
     And Czech is the first language I've learned that doesn't follow our same system for naming months. Here's a look at how the Czech months got their names (their moms didn't give 'em to them):
     (January) leden - gets its name from "led" (ice).
     (February) únor - this is the month name that has everyone baffled. It's also the only month I've successfully spelled in a game of Czech Scrabble (scoring 8 points). Svatja, during a bar discussion, postulated it comes from "u" (near) "nora" (rabbit hole), because February is cold and you shouldn't go far from your den.
     (March) brezen - it comes from the verb, "brezit," I guess, which refers to farm animals giving birth. Maybe we should change our name for it to "Calfing-uary?"
     (April) duben - it would seem to be named for "dub" (oak). The oaks must be getting leaves or dropping acorns at this time, I don't know.
     (May) kveten - comes from "kvet" (flower, or blossom).
     (June) cerven - people say it comes from "cerveny" (red), because cherries and other fruits are getting red at this time. But, I like to think it comes from "cerv" (worm), because it's the month of many worms.
     (July) cervenec - the Czechs weren't very creative with this name, I'm afraid. The fruits just get redder, and the worms keep coming.
     (August) srpen - comes from "srp" (sickle).
     (September) zari - comes from "zarit" (to shine, to glare, to glow, to beam, to radiate). It refers to the colors of the leaves, we guess.
     (October) rijen - this comes from "rija," a word referring to when the animals are looking to mate. Maybe we should change our name for the month to "Horny-ember?"
     (November) listopad - comes from "list" (leaf) and "padat" (to fall).
     (December) prosinec - some people think it was named for "prosit" (to ask), because people ask God or Jezecek (Baby Jesus) for things. (Jezecek flies through Czech windows to deliver Christmas gifts, while Santa Claus is busy in America.) Others say the name comes from "prase" (pig) and the verb that refers to slaughtering a pig. Czechs used to kill a pig every December, and many rural Czechs still do.
     "These are the months of the year ... Fill them with joy and with cheer, the months of the year!"
     Even though leaves fall in November, snow fell too in Rýmarov on November 17th. And it has stayed.
     The cold air and white invasion, in a town with little pollution and where everyone walks to get around, are "krásné" (beautiful) and "romatické." I've gone for some walks in the hills, amongst the pines, at the end of town. It reminds me of Michigan (the parts of Michigan not filled with huge cars). The young children have been sledding lots.

good-bye, Justin.

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