Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Surove maso a kolotoc

[Raw meat and the kolotoc]

Working back in time, here...

When we got back to Nitra on Sunday after Prague, it was 7:30 at night. We went to stara mama's house first to pick up Phoebe and Roxy, who had stayed there for the weekend. (I especially like going to her apartment because she often gives us Milka bars, as was the case this time.)

Then, just before 8, we went to church at the chapel within the hospital, which I really liked before (this was my third time there). No singing this time, but I was alright with that. I think it's such a pretty place. Ruth said the priest was foreign, most likely Polish. I hadn't heard an accent; I had actually thought to myself what a lovely voice he had. Apparently the priest there the time before had also been foreign, most likely Polish. Hmm.

We came back and Ceskoslovensko Ma Talent and Talentmania were on. I sat down with Tibor to watch while Ruth took the dogs for a last walk before bed. Five minutes passed, and then the phone which means someone is outside the apartment building rang. I jumped up and answered it; it was Ruth. I assumed she'd forgotten her key or something, but to my surprise, she said "Hey, you should come down here right now!"

It was pouring outside, but I just slipped on my sandals and ran. There was Ruth walking the dogs outside the apartment, and on a little patch of lawn nearby.... a hedgehog! "Jesko" is the Slovak word, which is very cute, especially since it's a name with a diminutive built into it, which means that the name will always be inherently cute. ("Liska," which means "fox," is another such word.) I've never seen a hedgehog in the wild before! It was about the size of two dinner rolls and the exact color of the brown grass around it in the dark. It was sniffing around and crawling, and Ruth says that's unusual--they usually just sleep. (They're a fairly common sight around here: Ruth says she sees them about once a month.)

I stood close to the hedgehog and watched it carefully, utterly delighted, and then it took off. It moved fast! I walked around a car in hopes of heading it off and seeing it better, but when I emerged not half a second later, the hedgehog was gone! I was sure I'd lost him. But then, crawling into the shadows, I saw a little prickly figure. He disappeared into the long, dark grass. What an awesome sight.

Back upstairs after the dogs' walk, we watched the talent shows, which is something of a Sunday night tradition, and then Tibor went to bed. There was a movie on TV that I stayed up very late (for a Sunday night before school) watching. I went to bed at 1:30 and it was only half over--a very long movie, apparently! It was so awesome. Ruth looked at the movie information, and it said the movie was dubbed from Russian. It was a Russian film. That's one cool perk to living outside of insulated America. I mean, sure, the majority of TV programming is imported from America, but there's also some importing from other countries as well. (Once, Ruth and I watched a weird Swedish/Norwegian film.) This Russian movie was like Lord of the Rings meets Kill Bill. (They were on a quest and there were things like Nazguls coming after them, and the people looked like they were from Gondor, and they lived in a Russian Rowhan; but then, when someone would get killed, which happened ridiculously often, they would spurt for five minutes and five feet vertically. Here, you can show anything on TV if you have a little "18" in the right-hand corner of the screen.) I wrote down the translated Slovak title. I'll find that movie again.

Monday, you can imagine, I was pretty tired. But much to my delight, we actually had a Rotary meeting for the first time in three weeks! We're always allowed to order food at the meetings if we'd like it, so this time I ordered halusky, ready to give it a second try. (The first time I had it, I didn't like it.) And guess what? I liked it! Well, it wasn't my favorite food ever, but it was fine-- better than just okay, and certainly better than bad. So I can check that off my to-do list.

Something I found out a few days after the meeting: my counselor and a man from Rotary have arranged for me to take an art class! I had told my counselor I might want to take an art class, if it wasn't too expensive. This class will only cost 1 Euro each time, and it's every Thursday for two to three hours. It sounds great and I'm so excited for the first class in a few days!

Tuesday I got home at 3 and took the dogs for a walk, and then stara mama picked me up and took me to the university center--somewhere between Chrenova and Zobor--which I'd never been to before. Nitra has two universities, which is unusual for a Slovak city. The center of the agricultural university is very prominent along the main road (it's a kind of oval dome); Gabo is a professor at the other university, whose center I hadn't seen before because it's sort of hidden away in a pretty wooded clearing.

So, stara mama took me to Gabo's office, and the three of us talked for a little while, and then I went with Gabo to their apartment in Chrenova, which I'd never been inside before. Lenka (age 11) and I played for a while, and then the two of us took the bus to our apartment, because I was going home, and Lenka was going to her English lesson with Ruth.

Wednesday was a pretty awful day. I was so relieved to finally get off the bus and start walking home (I always take the first bus that comes, and if it's the 6, it means I have a five minute walk, while the 2 drops me off right in front of the apartment). I was walking along, staring at the ground, and suddenly--bam! The left side of my head was drenched in what I can only hope was water. What?! Some teen boy on the street with a giant metal bucket of water had tried to soak his friend, and got me instead. It was so random and just made my mood much blacker. He just laughed at his friend and didn't even notice me. What a terrible day.

That night I finished my book, and was tired and so went to bed very early, at 8. Tibor had a small party (three guests), and I met them briefly and got to taste the specialty dish of the night: raw ground beef mixed with garlic, dijon mustard, pepper, salt, and other goodies, slathered on toasted bread which had been primed with garlic. I really liked it, and I would have eaten more, except I was full from dinner.

Thursday was a much better day. I woke up rested and with a good attitude. It was an especially good day because of the contrast to the day before, and because it was my Friday-equivalent, since we had no school on Friday.

At 4 stara mama picked me up and took me to the apartment in Chrenova again. When I'd been there on Tuesday, Lenka had been unable to contain her excitement for Thursday, when we would go on the kolotoc (spelling?). Across from their apartment was (still is) a small temporary amusement fair. Its crown jewel is its kolotoc--the thing I went on in the jarmok in Levice, the hanging swings set on a ring around a pole, where the ring slides up the pole to the very top, high above. From Lenka's room she has a very good view of the brightly lit-up kolotoc, so I can imagine how her excitement and anticipation probably built every time she looked out the window!

Lenka and I played for a while, and then Gabo took Hanka, Lenka, Miska and me across the street to the fair. There were a few booths where you could win stuffed animals, a cotton candy stand, and three rides. It was very dark and bitterly cold, but the fair was brilliantly lit and there was music from every direction.

The three rides: the kolotoc, this thing which swirled people around and upside down (who would want that?), and, worst of all, the bungee. I'll get to that last one a little later.

So, Gabo put little Miska on the baby train (a little toddler-sized train on a circular track), and we three went to the kolotoc--Lenka and I in one swing, Hanka alone. I got a little nervous that, while we were still on the ground, they kept having Lenka and me change swings to better distribute the weight. But I felt more assured as to the safety of this kolotoc than the one in Levice (the guy actually checked that we were buckled in), and it was prettier, too, with more lights and country flags on the sides of each swing. (All swings, that is, except for Lenka's and mine. It had a flag that advertised the company or something like that.)

Since I had done this in Levice, I knew what to expect. I still got a little scared when the swings got higher and the angle of rotation changed to slope at a disturbing 45 degrees (and I was on the inside). But the fear only lasted for a few seconds, and then I got over it. Lenka, despite her earlier anticipation, did not enjoy herself-- she screamed most of the time! That's too bad. The view was very nice from up there. In the nearer indigo distance we could see the hrad, all lit up for the night, and the two Catholic schools' churches. The first stars of the night were coming out. In the inky black distance, furthest of all, was the darkness I knew to be Zobor, the little station on top lit red.

We were finally lowered back down to the ground, and I was sorry for it--I'd really enjoyed myself. Lenka was very happy to have her feet on pavement again, but Hanka had liked the view. Miska took another turn on the baby train, and then the five of us walked over to be spectators to the bungee.

The bungee is a small ball, only big enough for two people to sit inside, which is secured by a giant magnet to a platform. The ball is connected at the top on each side to a giant, leg-thick white rubberband. The rubberbands rest between two extremely tall pillars (at least 60 feet high), connected by metal cables. When the ball is connected to the magnet, the cables and rubberbands are stretched at their tightest tension. The ball is actually just a cage; it's just a few bars which you could easily fit through. The people inside are bolted down in every direction. The hatch seals. The dramatic smoke machine goes off and hides the willing victims in a thick white screen. The music makes a loud trumpet call. And then--

The magnet releases! The ball is hurled vertically as high as the rubberbands can boing, maybe twenty feet past the height of the supporting pillars, the rubberbands quiver, they fall back on themselves, and the ball is in freefall back downwards, spinning upside down as it goes, as many times as it can. The rubberbands catch once more; the ball is flung upwards, it spins, and then back down, again and again, each time a little less violent. Each time lasts five minutes or so. Finally the whole contraption comes to a rest and the cables lower the ball back down to earth. A man with bulging biceps and cigarette held between his teeth grabs it and clamps it down hard onto the magnet. The end-- you got your 8 Euros' worth.

So, this was a sickly thing even to watch. (I feel like I'm going to throw up just describing it.) I saw a girl and her boyfriend get on-- what a great date! Uggh. It was just revolting. Forget the thrill of actually doing it; I got a quite good enough adrenaline rush being the bystander.

It was late when we left, and when we looked at the bus schedule there for me, we saw it was going to be another hour. It was freezing, so I went back to their apartment while I was waiting. Finally the bus came and I went home. Ruth made delicious chicken with cheese with peaches--fried--for dinner. Yum!

And that was my week!

One little eventful thing on Tuesday, which I don't know where to slip it in above: My history teacher gifted me with a book of Nitra and Slovakia photography! I was surprised when she gave it to me after the lesson; it's a beautiful, brand-new book, and it's written in six languages, including English! (It's badly translated, but all that matters is I can understand it and have gotten interesting information out of it.) Half of it is strictly about Nitra, and the other half is just random places in Slovakia. It's really fun to flip through. How nice and generous of her!

Much love!

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