Friday, September 24, 2010

Pod'me do diska!

[Let's go to the disco]

"Disko"... yes, that deserves quotation marks, I think.

So, yesterday afternoon I again had no plans, and Ruth was in her room tutoring her cousin Anka in English, so I figured it was finally time to do what I'd been dreading, namely putting all my new pins on my Rotary blazer.

I think I only got pins from half the people there (everyone traded really haphazardly: whenever there was a two-minute break there'd be a lot of movement, the dust would clear, and people would be left holding a few pins), but even so my jacket's already quite covered. The front, anyway; I'm saving the back for something special, but I'm waiting to see what that will be. It has to feel right. I clipped the outline of the statue of Corgon from a Nitra tourism magazine, and he might go there, along with other things... We'll see. (Corgon = "Atlas" of a sorts; there's an awesome building at the base of the hrad that has a statue of Corgon built into it; it looks like he's holding up the building. There's also a Slovakian legend that he defended them from the Turks at one time. The Nitra legend is rubbing the nail on his big toe will bring you luck. I've done it many times.) So, yes, I emerged from the Rotary weekend with a big bag of pins, and I waited to put them on my jacket until I didn't have anything else to do. I think yesterday was the right time to do it, since it took over two hours...

Anka left and Ruth and I took the dogs for a walk, and then we left (on foot) for Ruth's school--it was 7:30 already, but the "disko" had apparently started at 6. Ruth wasn't sure if I would even be allowed to get in, since I'm not a student, so I was ready to walk back home empty-handed, in a sense. But it ended up fine, no one asking for student ID cards. Unfortunately I didn't know my ticket was also good for the raffle, and I left it in my bag in the cloakroom. I think a lot of people did the same thing-- for each prize, they had to call at least three numbers before anyone would jump up to claim. Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

So, I expected a dance floor, but we went into the gymnasium, it was instead a sort of pep rally. Classes of kids were around the perimeter of the room (not very large) sitting on mats, and then the youngest class at the gymnazium (we'd call them freshmen) were chugging water and slurping pudding in some competition. (Not nearly as gross as at my alma mater, where we once had a class competition where girls and boys were paired up, and they had to lick peanut butter off of different sides of a clear window. Not only is peanut butter disgusting in any public setting, you can imagine what the situation looked like. Eww.) Everyone applauded, and then there was the raffle, which went on for a very long time-- they had lots of little prizes, like a single cup of pudding or a candy bar or even a carrot. Silvia, Ruth's friend, was there, and she told me they had been doing the competitions, etc. for the whole hour and a half previously! "I expected dancing, and I found this instead..." So definitely okay that Ruth and I got there late.

But then, finally, the pudding-slurpers and prize-winners cleared away, the lights were cut, and everyone flooded the gymnasium floor for what we'd come for. They had colored lights moving around on the dark walls, giant speakers, and a DJ. Suddenly, the lights came back on. There was a universal moan of protest. Everyone abruptly stopped moving. This lasted for maybe five minutes; some people started dancing again, but most people just stood around awkwardly (people theorized they wanted the lights on so that they could see if anyone fainted). But then just as suddenly the lights went out again--and stayed out--and everyone cheered.

And I had such a good time. I really love dancing. BIG cultural difference here, though: There was actually nothing sexual in the dancing. So hard to believe! But no, people weren't shimmying onto each other; no grinding; people actually dancing in circles, instead of front-to-back. For those who don't know about American high school dances, you don't want to know. Practically sex on the dance floor-- I've even heard of couples at a few schools who actually did the deed! Girls hiking their dresses (another difference: everyone wore regular clothes) up to their waists and riding on their boyfriends' laps, people down on all fours, "sandwiching," groping inside clothes... you name it, it happens. A lot of it. I still have no idea why-- I guess to discourage sex? But it's just weird-- my American high school had a rule about "no front-to-front dancing." What? That's how you're supposed to dance! Front-to-back is just strange.

Actually, at one point there was the song called "Sex on the Beach," (the songs were still dirty, even if the dancing wasn't) and everyone started chanting "Sex-- sex-- sex on the beach! Sex-- sex-- sex on the beach!" along with the music. Ruth and her friends were scandalized. She told me afterwards it's proof that these kids haven't been at the school long. Ruth and her classmates have been at their school for eight years--high school plus "elementary school" as well. I think most (all?) gymnaziums have two tracks: the regular four-year one and a special eight-year one. So, Ruth et al have been at their school now going on eight years, and she says they could never imagine doing that, since the strict discipline has been so deeply ingrained in them. Not like the young 'uns. I asked her if she ever went to a dance at her American high school. "YES!" she said, mouth open wide. "It was a very traumatic experience for me! I'd never seen that before!"

So yes, this was just plain dancing. The way it's supposed to be. Soooo much fun. There were the American dance songs I expected ("Tonight's Going to be a Good Night" by the Black-Eyed Peas-- I actually hate that song), but as the night wore on, they played a lot more Slovak pop songs as well. A little harder for me to dance to, as I didn't know where the musical cues were and it took more time to get into the beat. And they had a few random songs that were like Slovak polka! I danced one with Silvia, and whew, that was such a workout! Twisting in circles with linked arms, tango-dipping, and all the other moves, at a very fast pace... and the song just went on and on! I think it must have been seven minutes at least. I was exhausted. (But not enough to stop dancing.)

And slow songs... Not the time when everyone pairs off with the opposite sex awkwardly and sort of sways in place, or else just stops altogether and sticks their tongues down each others' throats. People just linked arms in their circles of friends and sort of swayed together peacefully.

A very nice night. It ended at ten, as planned. Everyone helped drag the mats that had been around the perimeter of the gym out into another room, the lights came back on, and we collected up our things. Including our shoes. You're not allowed to wear shoes at Slovak schools, you wear slippers instead, and apparently the rule applies to school functions as well. So I danced the whole night in slippers. My feet still ache. (More on this: At Ruth's school, she says this is strictly enforced, and teachers will make you go shoeless if you don't have slippers. At my public school, about 3/4 of the kids wear normal shoes, and the other quarter wear slippers. None of the teachers care (they wear shoes as well, and I don't think they're supposed to); apparently you only run the risk of being in trouble with the principal, who I've only seen once, on the first day. But I'm a good girl and I wear my slippers. Even if I have no idea why. I think the espoused reason is school cleanliness, but the slippers' bottoms are filthy too, and after your second-to-last class you're allowed to wear regular shoes again, so yeah, I really don't see the point.)

I was so hot afterwards, so it felt really great to be out in the cool night walking home. It's maybe a ten minute walk from the heart of the stare mesto, where Ruth's school is, back to the flat, and it's through the pedestrian zone. We got home, and I told Ruth she could have the first shower while I tidied up my room after the pin extravaganza. And then something very strange happened. So, I'd been sick, but that whole day I'd felt I was getting better, and then dancing, I had felt incredible; certainly no sniffles! But suddenly, within thirty seconds of getting home, I got very, very sick. I couldn't even move, I felt so incredibly awful. I had chills and a headache and I was thirsty and I could barely breathe from congestion... so I just lay on my bed, wanting it all to end!

It got a little better in the shower, though I still had the chills even on the hottest setting, and I went to bed very miserable (though not desperate, as I had been before the shower). If I felt like that in the morning, there's no way I would have gone to school! Actually, I did feel pretty bad this morning, too, but I figured I could make it, since Friday has only five classes and they're fun ones (Math, English, no P.E.).

I didn't have the best day, just because I was down from being sick, but I had a fun thing in math. The teacher wrote x^2 = 25 on the board and asked what was the answer. Everyone--except me-- shouted back, "pat'!" (five). I shook my head, and she asked, "Why?" "Plus or minus five," I said (I knew how to say this in Slovak, since only the pronunciation of "plus minus" is different from English). I think this gave my teacher confidence in my abilities, because she called me up to the board for the next problem. Yay! It was x^2+13=0. I simplified this to x^2= -13, and now, as every math student knows, the answer "does not exist." (You would simplify this by taking the square root of both sides, and you can't take the square root of a negative number.) It seems that every math teacher I've had has told me to express this impossible answer in a different way. So, unsure what would be required here in Slovakia, I wrote in my neatest cursive, "neexistuje." Everyone laughed and clapped at what I'd written, and the teacher smiled. Good going, Rhiannon. (Sure enough, in this math class in Slovakia there's yet another way they want "does not exist" to be expressed than what my previous math teachers have each told me. It's k= { }. Just like that. Hmm...)

Also, English class: This last week, instead of the class being divided into three separate groups based on ability (two-thirds of the class leaving for other rooms), with three separate teachers, we only had two groups. One small group still left for elsewhere, but the teacher of the highest level group (mine) has been gone this week, so we've been in the normal classroom with the other group. The other English teacher has not been happy about having twice as many students, but I've liked it. The teacher has a sort of unconventional style, and he has a lot of interesting ways of teaching that I think are helpful-- I'm kind of taking mental notes, thinking that on the off chance I'm ever a language teacher someday, I'll have some ideas for creative teaching.

Today he (the teacher) put in a CD and told us to listen to the song and see if we could understand the meaning. The song was called "Have a Good Day" by a group I've never heard before, and unfortunately as soon as the song started playing, I realized my sickness was affecting my hearing, and I couldn't understand anything! So, the song ended, and he asked us what it was about. He called on a girl. "Having a good day?" she asked. Nope. Me? I thought that maybe the singer's girlfriend had left him, and now he was being sarcastic, wishing her a good life? That was all I could guess from the tiny snippets I'd caught. Nope. So, he played the song again, I didn't catch any more than I had before, and he asked us again. No? No one? Finally, he had a girl read the lyrics, which he had printed out. Oh, now I get it... The song was actually about freeing yourself from society and the race race and just enjoying life. Wow, was I off. I think I have an appropriate excuse, though.

Uggh. Still sick. But, going to Kosice tomorrow morning-- we leave at eight! And Mario lives right across the street from me, so I can just walk over to his house. This will be great.

Much love!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry to hear you're sick, but it sounds like you're still managing to enjoy everyday life with all it offers you. Enjoy Kosice, but consider slowing down so that you recover your health! Love, mom