...Was awesome! And packed. So here goes...
(I wrote this post on Sunday, as promised, but the wi-fi cut out, the end part wouldn't save, and I was forced to stop there. So, here it finally is.)
On Saturday afternoon at 2, Tibor and I went to Klokocina to pick up Aneta, Tibor´s girlfriend, and her son, Patrik (age=12 ish?). We were going to an "aquapark" in Galanta.
Galanta was about an hour away, a small, pretty town. It had been raining and gray skies all day, so I, envisioning something like Wild Waves, wondered how this was going to work. Surprise! Of course it was different from how I´d imagined...
We arrived at "Galandia," a large building seemingly in the middle of a cornfield. We went inside, and it was the temperature of a tropical paradise! Too hot for me in my sweatshirt and jeans... We got numbered plastic bracelets that had electronics inside. When we went to change into our swimsuits in the locker rooms (obviously I went with Aneta), the numbers on our bracelets matched lockers, and we scanned our bracelets to lock and unlock them. Very clever, I thought.
The main room--sanctuary, I´ll call it-- was a huge series of "thermal" pools, centered around a spiral staircase under a very high ceiling. The staircase didn´t actually go anywhere... I checked. The main pool was huge and wrapped around in pleasant curves. Everything was immaculately clean. The floor of the pool (I´m guessing 5 ft. deep) was stainless steel and completely studded with little bumps for good traction. There were various shelves for sitting on around the perimeter, and one place was actually shaped for lying down, right against intense (I actually got bruises!), massaging jet streams. So comfortable... There was a waterfall, too, which also gave a good pounding. And the water was very warm.
In the center of this main pool were two concentric circles of water around the spiral staircase to nowhere. You could only get to the inner, smaller circle by climbing over the railing that partitioned it from the other one. But the outer circle had a place to enter. Every fifteen minutes or so for about five minutes furious jet streams would turn on, and the outer circle became a whirlpool! You jumped in and you could just sit there without moving and it would take you around at a very fast pace. So much fun! I loved that. It would be so sad when the jet streams turned off again...
There were two other pools inside, the kiddie pool and a large pool that was significantly warmer than the main pool but not boiling like a hot tub. There was a continuous shelf around the whole perimeter for sitting, and jet streams to massage. I could have fallen asleep so easily.
Outside, there was another pool, kept pretty cool (22 degrees Celsius, the sign said), which I really loved. I´m not really a hot water kind of person. You got there by swimming through a little grotto thing. It was too cold for most people, so I enjoyed being out there alone for a while. There was a submerged island in the middle I lay on. Later, I discovered what was up with the 7-foot high stainless steel walls in the shape of a circle in the pool. Tibor, Aneta, Patrik and I got in there along with a couple, and by having half of us standing on each side and alternating jumping up and down, we made an intense wave pool! I was close to getting over the side. Awesome.
And then, amid all this, there were also waterslides. Three of them were open-air, and assumedly because it was a cold day, they unfortunately weren´t operating. The fourth, the highest up, was covered and finished into an indoor pool. I enjoyed my first slide on it, but even though I was lying down with my arms across my chest, for some reason I went really slowly. Which made my second and third times really unpleasant... FIVE people smashed into me! It was really painful and scary to hear them coming up behind me, and then wham! After the second time this happened, I was really in no mood to do the slide again.
We stayed there three hours. As it started getting later, they turned on the lights. The underwater ones were a lovely aquamarine color (and for some reason, the water was perfectly clear, so the color really came through), and then there were two red lights side by side on the ceiling. The way the red lights were positioned, they made a vermillion trail on the water that looked like a tropical sunset. It was so beautiful.
Well, I had a wonderful time and got completely tired out! Not to mention relaxed. We rinsed off in the lockers and then headed home. It was 7 by that time. Tibor and I dropped off Aneta and Patrik (really nice people) at their flat at around 8. I had a little pasta for dinner back at home and had a real shower, and then went to bed. I definitely slept well.
Today, Sunday, we got dressed up and went out at 12:30 to Chrenova (if you imagine a map of Nitra with the stare mesto at the center, Zobor is North, Klokocina is East, and Chrenova is West). Tibor´s 70 year-old uncle eloped last week, so this was the actual wedding celebration at a nice restaurant. We found out it´s actually the same place the other Rotary club in Nitra meets. Behind it is a large, old amphitheater which faces a towering concrete wall which they must project movies onto. Ruth and I walked around there a bit while they waited for people to arrive. And we idly looked for four-leaf clovers (stvorlistok, is the word)... Ruth found her first ever! We saw it at the same time, or maybe she got there a little first. Good for her. And then I found three others. It´s nice to be back in the groove, since I haven´t found any real ones since the rafting trip (2). I guess I´m just not in the right part of Nitra...
The dining room was set up very nicely with placecards. Mine said "Friend Rhiannon" and pinned to my napkin was a lapel pin of the American and Slovak flags together. Which was so nice! Of course it´s going on my blazer.
Who was there? Let´s see... Obviously the bride and groom, the latter of which looked just like an older version of Gabriel ("Gabo"); Tibor, Ruth, myself; Gabo, Gabika, Anka, Lenka and Miska; Tibor´s two cousins, women in their thirties (I thought they were in their twenties); one of the bride´s daughters (the other lives in Amsterdam) and her husband and children; Ruth´s stara mama, who is the sister of the groom, and Ruth´s grandfather; the brother of the bride and his wife; and a few other people who were either friends or relatives.
The bride, groom, and stara mama made toasts. We ate the first two courses, which were pasta salad and soup. It was fun for me to see the bride´s daughter who was there talking to her daughters exclusively in English, while their father spoke to them in Slovak-- they´re obviously trying to raise the children bilingual. And it was working! I watched the younger, who was probably two or three, have a temper tantrum, shouting "No! I won´t! I don´t want to!"
I had a nice long conversation with Mary, one of Tibor´s cousins (daughter of the groom), who is a journalist. (The older sister is a translator who dubs things into Slovak.) Her boyfriend Roman was there and was also very nice. She invited me to come over to her flat sometime, so I hope that happens. They live actually right on the main square! That´s so unbelievable. That would be incredible.
Then in the lobby the newlyweds received all their gifts and handshakes and cheek kisses from everyone. I was surprised to see that stara mama´s gift was a huge exotic plant. I asked Ruth, was it traditional to give plants for wedding gifts? She laughed-- as in America, usual wedding gifts are useful things to help get a young couple started with their new life together. But what do you get 70 year-olds whose lives are definitely established? So stara mama had decided on a plant. It was more like a tree, actually...
Afterwards, Anka, Lenka, Mary, Miska and stara mama lined up and also received gifts, handshakes, and kisses. Why? All of them had had either birthdays or name-days or both recently. Name-days are great. You get two birthdays a year! All Slovak calendars include whose name-day it is for every day. Obviously I don´t have one, so Tibor sat down with the calendar, randomly flipping through the days, and then decided on November 6th. Why? That´s Renata´s day, and he thought the names were sort of similar, so...
When this was finally through, we went back to the dining room to order entrees. It took forever for them to come! Over an hour at least. And mine came last of all, which was too bad because Ruth and I were going to leave early to go to Sunday mass. Because my entree came so late, we missed the mass at the church Ruth had planned on, the one that´s connected to her school. But she decided we could go to the 5:30 one at a different church instead, so we stuck around for coffee and dessert (I didn´t have either).
The two of us left soon afterwards (though the celebration is still going on, at a quarter to ten!). We walked further into Chrenova, to a church I hadn´t been to before. It was where Ruth had her first communion. The exterior reminded me a lot of old Spanish missions in California. Only the palm trees were missing...
It was a nice mass, made nicer in that Ruth´s friend and classmate who I´ve met several times before, Teresa, was performing in the balcony along with a few other girls. Teresa has a great voice and she plays the guitar. I found out afterwards we were lucky in this respect; today was the first time they´d had musical performers! I was also amazed to see Teresa there, since there are at least a dozen churches in Nitra, and for some reason she had been at this one, which is off the beaten path.
After mass, Ruth went up to the balcony to talk to the girls, and I stayed below. Most of the people had left. The priest came up to me and said something in Slovak; I apolegetically explained in Slovak that I was American. And then, ironic to what I´d professed, we had a quality conversation entirely in Slovak-- he didn´t speak any English. He was blown away when I told him I´d only been here a month! I really feel like in the last two days or so a switch has been flipped in my mind. Not the big switch, a smaller one, but a switch nonetheless. Somehow I´m just understanding so much more. And I was understanding a lot before! It´s such a wonderful feeling.
Ruth came back downstairs and said we´d been invited to a youth group meeting. Another interesting coincidence: this was the first trial meeting on the priest´s part, trying to start a youth group. There were six of us, including me. People brainstormed ideas and wrote down their email addresses. One disadvantage to appearing knowledgeable in Slovak was that later the priest spoke very quickly to me, and I couldn´t catch it all! He was a really great guy. I´m excited I´ll get to see him again, since Ruth and I promised to come to the next meeting next Sunday. He said he wants me to come speak to the children at the elementary school where he teaches religion, and I´d really like to do that!
There were no buses to get back home, so we had a nice twilight walk. And I know I had more written here, but it apparently got deleted, and I don't remember what it was. Too bad.
Updates: Had a very nice Rotary meeting yesterday. I really enjoy them! Today marks four whole weeks in Slovakia. Yay! And tomorrow, I am going with Tibor, Aneta, and Patrik (maybe? I don't know) to HUNGARY. Really! Not Budapest; but I don' t know how to spell the name of the town. We're going to the thermal baths there that Hungary is so famous for. Needless to say, that's going to be awesome. And I won't be missing school, because tomorrow is a national holiday-- I'm not actually sure what of (people have just told me, "uh... it's an anniversary").