While in Poland, I learned that the polka was not a Polish dance - as I had thought - but a Czech dance.
So, of course, I returned immediately to the Czech Republic. The new year's winter "ball season" was about to begin.
With the arrival of the ball season came also some bad news. I'm sure you're as surprised as I am to see "ball season" and "bad" used in the same sentence. But, I learned I was done teaching in the Czech Republic.
The foreign police had been turned on to me. I was working illegally, and they found out about me, and the rumor was they were planning a visit to my schools. So, the schools let me go. The news hit me hard at first. I was especially sad when saying good-bye to the students who viewed our classes as one of the happiest parts of their weeks. Button-nosed, brown-skinned, fifteen-year-old Romana may not have spoken much English, but she smiled like a hopeful baby bird to be in our class. I wish I didn't have to say good-bye.
But, I said, "helloooo!" to the money. Those firve to seven Euro's earned per class, eighteen classes per week, minus the 15% taxes I somehow paid illegally, added up. I'd spent money humbly, and so I would leave the Czech Republic with two-hundred-and-fifty Euro's more than I came with.
Woohoo! Where to?
But, wait. I can't leave just yet. Even though I didn't have time to teach my students the perfect grammar that I was been possessing or to provide them with a vocabulary that included the word "unwieldy," the MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!! will not go unwritten. And not only will it not go unwritten, it will be as flawless as the other MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!!'s I was have been to write.
I guess if every story must end in dancing, then The Top 5 Worst Things About the Czech Republic must come somewhere near the beginning. Here they are:
1. NO CZECH PRIDE -
Czechs used to want to be German, then they wanted to be Russian for a while, and now they want to be English or American. One Czech saying goes, "More German than German," and it can refer to any nationality Czechs might emulate. Another saying uses the word, "prdel" (butthole), and it explains where Czechs go while trying to impress the people who have the butts. One twenty-something guy told me, "I'm from Scotland," because he's lived there four years.
Many people can't tell you what you should see in their country besides Prague. Some people do have Czech pride, but they seem to be the minority.
2. CLOSED PEOPLE -
Students, bar-goers, and active and interesting adults are as open as people anywhere. However, the older generation and the married are often bored by or uninterested in new life experiences. If you say something to a stranger in a public place, he'll treat you like an unwelcome weirdo. He might be right - depending on who you are.
3. ROMANCE IS SEX -
The "Hand Down the Pants" is a popular Czech move often engaged within the first few minutes of kissing a new person in a nightclub. From what I've heard, it sounds like boyfriends and girlfriends don't do much together besides lie in bed, and seem to have little excitement in their relationships. Maybe this is why older people are closed? If romance - possibly the best thing on Earth - gets reduced to one exhaustive action, everything in general should be a bit less exciting.
4. NO HUGGING -
Example: one giggly late-thirties teacher had tears in her eyes as she said good-bye to me, but when I went to put my hand on her shoulder, she quickly withdrew.
5. TREATMENT OF GYPSIES -
Most white Czechs will say about the browner-skinned gypsies that they have a lot of kids, they don't send their kids to school, they don't work, and they steal. My best Czech friend, Klara, criticized our gypsy neighbors unfairly; so, I joked I was going to have a "gypsy party" in her apartment once she was gone. (I'm sorry if that's a politically incorrect term.) I think the whites could treat them more warmly.
The HONORABLE MENTION must not go unwritten! Cigarette SMOKE AND BEER create an unhealthy bar environment. (I will probably be killed now, because the one thing Czechs are very, very, very, very, very proud of is their beer.)
Okay, so this story may not have begun too positively. But, the Czech culture was quite strong. And a happy ending is worth at least two happy beginnings. The Top 5 Best Things About the Czech Republic:
2. GYMNAZIO -
A lot of positive things happen between the walls of the public high school. The students take care of each other. There are no popular kids and no lonely losers; everyone is the same. They're bright students and good young people with likeable personalities.
3. BALLROOM-DANCE LESSONS
4. KLARA'S COOKING -
Man, was I happy on those days when little Klara cooked for me! One of her best soups was a creamy-hazel broth full of mostly mushrooms and potatoes and salt and spices.
5. SUNLIGHT -
In the rural area near Rymarov, there didn't seem to be lines. The fields' ends blended with forests' beginnings in a blurry haze, the snow blended with sky in the same way, and the churches' lines were fuzzy. Common things - like the snow gathered on the shores and in the center of a sailing silver creek - were beautiful.
I can't count any higher than that, so every other positive must be HM: the SILENCE; PRAGUE'S BEAUTY; the KOFOLA MUSIC CLUB in Krnov; KOFOLA (the "communist Coca-Cola") AND RUM (Czech rum is made from potatoes, honestly); and FERDA MRAVENEC. Ferda Mravenec was a children's book about a spunky and hard-working ant and all his insect friends. It's stories and colorful illustrations about personified insects (such as the bashful, beautiful "beruska" (ladybug)) were great.
Though Czechs have the "communist Coca-Cola," they despise communism. They'd embraced Russia after World War II, when they saw the Russians as liberators. In 1968, they decided they'd distance themselves from communism. However, Russia moved in and occupied them. The Czechs were forced to study Russian in the schools. This ended after the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989, and Czechs now hold a deep resentment towards their former occupiers.
As for the Czech Republic of today, I like it. I like it a little more than the average country.
I had one last week in Rymarov.
I scrambled to say good-bye to my students. Some seventeen-year-olds and I met one night at a bar. I told them about my ideas for the romantic revolution: 1. care about others, 2. no sex, 3. no monogamy, 4. kiss everyone, 5. no family. Maybe one student supported my ideas. But, at least the others - especially curious shaggy-haired Pavel - argued with me vehemently. We had a nice talk.
And the next night was the ball. It was the first ball of the year: a ball put on by the public school to honor the students of the graduating class.
It was great. Because Rymarov is a small town, I couldn't walk three feet without seeing someone I knew from the high school or ballroom-dance lessons or the bar or my adult English lessons (which usually took place in a bar).
We danced polka, waltz, slow-dancing, and faster-dancing. A few of my former students and I kissed. (Woohoo!) Graduate-to-be, future-deejay Niko was jumping around, happy, yelling, "Je muj ples! It's my ball!"
I spoke a lot with Kuba and Milan: the two seventeen-year-olds who joined me in being senior members of the ballroom-dance lessons for the younger kids. Kuba wants to be the Czech minister of foreign affairs, and he supports the "romantic revolution." Glasses-wearing, reflective Milan said I was his very good friend.
Curious shaggy-haired Pavel was there, too. He was drunk on his birthday, and his friend Jirka was holding him up. He wasn't so philosophic this night. But, he was hugging me and calling me a great teacher.
I'll have great - fantastic memories from Rymarov. My last dance was a slow one with small and introverted, smiling artistic Renata in a glittering blue dress with a hole exposing her tummy and belly-button ring.
Thanks, Rymarov! (Keep in touch.)