"East Europe 2005-06" story # 18

Rymarov, Czech Republic           December 20, 2005

My day of teaching complete, I cooked myself soup. Czechs sip soup like they gulp beer.
     I walked down the slippery, snowy street past grey buildings. At a nighclub called "Erna" I met up with a fifteen-year-old student of mine. He was glass-wearing, curly-cliff-haired Jan, who eagerly enjoys my classes and wears big smiles probably because he's the only boy in a class of fifteen girls. He'd invited me here; I like to accept my students' invitations whenever possible. I danced briefly to bad techno music with Jan's friends then left.
     An intelligent boy walked back up the snowy, slippery street with me. This fellow private school student of Jan's informed me that Erna is full of drugs. The private school I teach at has a big drug problem. The students who go there come from different towns; some live in the depressing student housing, where they're locked inside early and bad influences might lurk.
     At 7:00 p.m., I started playing basketball with my basketball buddies. And then I took a shower.
     "Whoo!" I still cling foolishly to my three-year-old "all-coldwater-shower" policy. It's not a half-bad policy, really. But, when you combine it with the long-hair policy, the no-hairdryer theory, and the cold-Czech-winter postulate, you have problems. I was ice cream as I walked to the bar.
     Little, blond Klára - my best Czech friend - helped me out with a warm hug, and I almost never let her go. But, I reached the bar, breathed a sigh of survival, and ordered hot wine.
     My wonderful basketball buddies surrounded me. Mostly, they're in their early-thirties to mid-forties. A short-haired lady, Jirina, is the vice principal at the agricultural school. One gray-haired guy is a businessman, a shaven-headed guy is a policeman, etc. They speak to me warmly in Czech, happy at least that it's not Ivan Lendl they're talking to.
     We played cards. Petra Dobrevová explained to me that each person tries to get as close to thirty-three points (which is the most possible) as he can. Petra is close to my age and a very "zvlastní" (special) small-brown-eyed girl. When she talks to you, it's like she's playing with you, and she wants to laugh like a puppy at everything. She's very fun and happy. She advised me later that I don't have to follow logic as I play, I can play crazily to confuse people. I said it didn't surprise me that she played crazily. "Jo. Já ti znám." (Yes. I know you.)
     When Petra's laughter is around, it inspires me to make jokes. I began to play the crazy Petra way. The policeman saw what I was doing and used the word "bluffovat" (to bluff, in cards) to describe me. "Jo, já bluffuji," I yelled. (Yeah, I'm bluffing.) "Já mám PADESAT (body)!" (I have FIFTY points!) Everyone "Ooh!"ed and "Aah!"ed.
     Jirina told me conversationally that she and my other basketball buddies play together every year in the town tournament. Only Petra plays for a different team. "Pristí streda," I said, "musíme ublizit ji." (Next Wednesday, we have to injure her.) I jokingly made an injury-inducing elbowing motion.
     Alas, crazy Petra nor crazy Justin won the game of cards. The policeman won. And the "vlastník" (owner) of the bar came out and gave us some more free shots of "slivovice": a clean, harsh Czech liquor made from plums.
     The nice "everyday" day ended after one a.m.
     "Já piju slivovice lepsi nez Iván Lendl!" (I drink slivovice better than Ivan Lendl!)

dobrou noc, Modern Oddyseus

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