Saturday, February 5, 2011

Co si robila?

(What have you been doing?)

Well, ouch...My blog tells me my last post date was December 30th. And here I am in the first week of February, and I only posted twice in December anyway... Explanation time. So, what happened? I don´t know. I had so much to tell in December, and no time in which to tell it; and then, after coming home from Italy in January, no desire to sit down and type it all up. I have at least five posts waiting in the wings, prodding me to just write them already, but each post takes on average 2-3 hours. And I just don´t feel like being on the computer that long.

But, blogging is important to me as both a way to keep everyone informed, and also because as easy as it is not to blog now, I know later I´ll regret all the memories left unlogged and then soon lost forever as a result. I´ve got to find the middle ground between my absurd writing fecundity of earlier months and ignoring the computer entirely. I´ll figure it out. For now, the first post in over a month! Yay!

So, some filler details of my last month. (Mostly the more recent things that come to mind.) What have I been doing?

Well, after Italy life slowed down several gears. December was such a busy month; there were celebrations--things to do, places to go, people to see--and I don´t know what else happening all the time. And Christmas night we left for Italy, so it all just kept going... Of course vacation in Italy was none too strenuous, but we certainly kept active. And it all felt exciting, as if I were on a brand-new exchange in another country. Language! Sights! Food! People! Culture! Even when I was sitting on the couch reading in the afternoon or something I think my blood pressure was raised at the excitement of just being somewhere new. Not that Slovakia had gotten boring for me. I had never been happier through all of December (and in the presentations they tell you December will be oohhh so saddd, rock bottom depression...) and was sad to have to stop speaking Slovak for two weeks. (Never fear! My Spanish magically returned with a vengeance and saw me through Italian like the good old friend it is.) But it´s all very familiar to me now, to the point where I sometimes will be walking down some very known street, and with a wave of nostalgia try to recapture the eyes with which I first looked at this street.

Coming home after Italy, I worried I was going to find all my Slovak gone, and, what´s worse, I would be unhappy to leave the cyprus-covered hills and pasta, instead buried under snow and waiting for the Great Spring Thaw... I was so pleasantly surprised to find myself wrong on both counts! Not only did I pick up my Slovak where I´d left off (though exchanging "dakujem" for "grazie" and "dobre" for "brava" were hard transitions again in reverse), I was so happy to be back in "my" country. I´d loved Italy, but two weeks was the right amount of time to be there. Two weeks is still short enough that it´s a vacation; longer, and you start really feeling the pressure to adapt. Not that adaption´s such a bad thing, but you hopefully get what I mean... As it was, immediately when we arrived I felt a need to fit in and not stick out like the foreigner tourist I am. Hmm, maybe part of what I was thinking of in the earlier statement is that, too, after a certain amount of time everyone else as well starts expecting you to adapt, to have adapted. Hmm.

What did surprise me, however, when I came back from Italy, was how much everything had come to a halt. Maybe it´s the cold and the darkness... You just get that primal urge to slip into inactivity. The bad ice and the 4 o´clock darkness meant no walking or other outdoor activities. No one plans anything big for January--as far as the world´s concerned, the month sort of stops after New Year´s.

So how did I fill all this empty time? I read. I had a hunger for anything written in English (hey, I put in the effort of reading in Slovak sometimes, but I deserve my pleasures too, right?), and hopefully something really substantial. This really kicked off in Italy, when I found myself with so much downtime I hadn´t had in December. It´s great for me that Ruth loves (prefers, actually) to read in English, so I can borrow all her books (unfortunately, most of the ones she owns are on her digital Kindle, which I do not borrow). The best thing I´ve borrowed from her was Gone With the Wind. Holding the 1000-page monster, with its very bland cover, and admitting to myself that I had no interest in the Civil War, I didn´t think I was going to do anything with it. But it was free. So I read it. And it was awesome. Thank God for classics, especially the big fat ones. It got me through six days, it was wonderful (though truly the most painful book I´ve ever read), and I get to add it to my list of classics. Nice.

As a natural counterpoint to all this reading, I´ve been writing a lot as well, at least a few pages in my notebook every day. No fictions; just musings and a few poems (not really up my alley) and of course I can´t resist throwing in drawings ever couple of pages. It feels good. I finally have time for this stuff.

And, what else do I finally have time for? Afternoon showers--and even baths! My whole life I´ve taken showers in the morning, because if my hair is even the slightest bit damp before going to bed it´s an unsalvagable wreck in the morning. And now my only time concern in the afternoons is dinnertime. I love my afternoon showers (and the two baths I had); I treasure every one. They feel wonderful and mornings are so luxurious.

And now for some unconnected events and trends.

One: I´ve become much better at the Slovak keyboard now than the American one! I know where everything is unconsciously (my pinkie reaches for the "y", knowing that the "z" and "y" are reversed) and type at my normal speed. I only realized I´d made the transition, though, on a school computer the other day. The school computer, for some unknown reason, was locked on the American keyboard, even though all the actual keys have the Slovak placement. It was torture--I just had to randomly hit every key and see which one came up with the question mark and so on. I couldn´t remember by feel! The reason why I hadn´t made the transition much earlier, though, is because in my first host family I used Ruth´s laptop, and it´s an HP she bought in America, so it´s an American keyboard. Um-hm.

And here´s something which feels strangely connected to my keyboard conversion: now, often when I type in English, I want to put commas where they would go in Slovak. Which is kind of ridiculous since I don´t begin to know Slovak comma rules (my book certainly doesn´t explain that!). Just basic rules I know from reading. But I´ve got the itch now. Like, whenever I say "did you know that..." I feel an essential need to make it "did you know, that", or if I´m saying "I was talking to the neighbor who lives down the street" I want it to be "I was talking to the neighbor, who lives down the street." It doesn´t really matter but I find it kind of interesting.

A wonderful January gift: I sleep so well at night! The whole month of December (maybe because it was a new-ish bed to me?) I was messed up, waking up with a start at least five times a night and feeling awful in the morning as a result. But January I finally got back on track. Ah, I sleep wonderfully--it´s such a warm and comfortable bed--and often dream. Plus, you know, not having any homework or late-night obligations means I can go to bed as early as I want, and getting up at 6:30 is so deliciously late for me... I guess I´m finally making up for all those years of four-hour nights. (Schoolnight schedule: go to bed at 10, get up at 2 to do homework!)

And Fridays I have a routine. Every Friday, unless I´m gone for some reason, I take the bus home from school to Ruth´s. I get there at 1, and she gets home at 3, so it means I have two hours alone to take the dogs for a walk and play with them. Then we just hang out and talk and go on errands if we need to, and she makes a glorious dinner for us (the same every time, because it´s my absolute favorite: breaded chicken, "buttered noodles," and this cheesy brocolli dish she makes). Then we watch a movie and stay up until 2 or something. We get up at 10:30 on Saturday, have my favorite breakfast, and do whatever we want until early afternoon, when I go back home. It´s so nice. We can´t get together any other day of the week since she´s so busy with school-- the big end-of-school exams, Maturita, are coming up in a very few short months and it´s crackdown time. But Fridays are free.

Two more little things...

One: Two weeks ago I experienced my first ever indoor snowball fight! And at school, no less. This would be pretty impossible at my school in America for several reasons: 1)it only snows a handful of days in the year, and when they coincide with school it often means a snow day; 2) there would be no way to get the snow from outside to inside without running back and forth every few seconds; and 3)you couldn´t have a fight for any decent length of time without some adult interceding. Well, here at my school in Slovakia, there is more than enough snow; it collects within easy reach of the students in the classroom, right there on the windowsill; and for a large part of the day the students are completely unsupervised (remember: kids belong to classrooms, not teachers). And so there was a wild indoor snowball fight! (The floors are linoleum, not carpeting, so it´s okay as far as that´s concerned.) To the point of pinning people down and rubbing snow into their hair and faces! But it was all in good fun and everyone was happy about it. It was fun for me to witness, though I was ducking out of the crossfire (there was a lot) rather than running to the windowsill myself...

Two: This Monday there was no school because it was "the end of a grading period," i.e., between semesters. (For the record, I received no grades. Which actually faintly disappointed me, because I had actually earned my 1´s--A-equivalents--in English, Math, P.E., and Art/Culture...) So I got up when I felt like it, and then after breakfast found that Marco and Sasha had rigged up some microphones in the living room. Sasha and I set up the laptop on the living room table, made microphone stands out of taped-together mops (thanks, Marco), and sang along to dozens of our favorite songs. It was great. I really love singing. Waka Waka by Shakira is probably Sasha´s favorite song ever, and so we practiced it and later Marco made a video of us on his iPhone which he says he´s going to put on YouTube... It´s all just for fun, and it makes me happy. It was a really fun day.

As to why I have time tonight to write my blog, it´s because Sandy and Marco are at a big Rotary fundraising ball which Sandy herself organized. (My God, I can´t imagine organizing something for four hundred people! She´s amazing.) And Sasha´s at her grandparents´ (who, incidentally, live right next door). So I sang for fun for three hours, had dinner with Sasha and her grandmother, and then decided to update my blog. It´s all good! :)

Much love!

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