Sunday, July 27, 2008

Strč prst skrz krk

"Strč prst skrz krk" is a real sentence in Czech. Wikipedia (yes - it has its own Wikipedia entry, but then doesn't everything nowadays?) translates it as "stick your finger through your neck." It's probably the most famous Czech tongue twister because, as you may have noticed, it doesn't contain a single vowel. Yeah, Czech is a rather hard language to learn. In addition to its lack of preoccupation with vowels, it has some other sounds that are rather difficult to pronounce, like the ř, which requires you to pronounce a rolled "r" and a "zh" at the same time ("zh" sounds like the "g" in mirage).

As far as Czech culture is concerned, I've found Moravians to be extremely nice and I have multiple examples to prove it. For example, I went to the grocery store after class last week, forgetting that I only had about 50 crowns on me (a little over $3). My total came to 88 crowns and as I reached in my wallet I realized that I did not have enough to cover my purchase. I confessed to the cashier that I did not have enough money and was ready to just turn around and run out of the shop, but without even blinking she asked me what I really wanted and proceeded to help me sort through my items: granola, a pear, a banana, bread, and a cucumber to determine what exactly I could afford with what turned out to be 59 crowns. Afterward I apologized profusely to the woman who had been waiting behind me, and she responded with something along the lines of "there's nothing to apologize for." What could have been quite embarrassing actually turned out to be quite a pleasant experience.

My next nice Moravian story occurred as I was headed back to Brno this weekend for a concert in the launderette (yes, you read this correctly and I will say more about it below). From the dorm I had to take a local bus & a trolleybus to get to the intercity bus station. On the bus I was studying the town map because I was having a little trouble figuring out where to transfer to the trolleybus. An older woman on the bus saw me poring over my map and asked if I needed help. I asked her how to get to the train station, and she told me to come with her and she would show me the right trolleybus to transfer to. As she showed me the stop, I realized that I had told her train station when I really needed the bus station so I corrected myself and she led me - cane and all - to the other side of the street where I needed to be. She even translated the tram number into German for me (despite the fact that I don't speak German, though I did catch sieben). As she was walking away she stopped, turned around, walked back toward me, pulled two small apples out of her bag and gave them to me for my trip.

Now it gets embarrassing. Shortly after arriving in Brno I had to use a payphone to call the friends I was staying with, at which time I realized that I did not have my wallet! I wasn't even worried about losing money so much as my passport, not to mention credit cards, ATM card, etc. I was frantic because I really didn't know where I had left/lost it - on the bus from Olomouc? At McDonalds? (I used the McDonalds bathroom after arriving.) Since the bus was long gone, my best bet at that point was to check McDonalds. I raced back over there and as I was about to ask the girl working at the cash register if a missing wallet had turned up, a young Czech man walked up to me and asked me if I had lost my passport (in English). I thank my lucky stars that he and his friend had found my wallet and that they waited in McDonalds to return it to me. Everything was still in it as I had left it. The crazy part is that I didn't even buy anything at McDonalds (I try to never buy anything there; I only use the bathroom), but had just briefly sat at a table to dig something out of my bag and in the process had left my wallet on a table. Yes mom, I guess I do live a charmed life.

Since we're on the topic of embarrassing things I did last week, I might as well add something unrelated to nice Moravians or Czech culture. As I was shifting furniture around in my dorm room in Olomouc, I accidentally ripped the plug to my computer out of the wall and one of the prongs remained stuck in the socket. I was very annoyed and decided to try to dislodge it so that I could try to put it back together somehow. So without thinking I grabbed metal tweezers and attempted to dislodge the prong. You can imagine what happened next. Yes, it's true - I electrocuted myself. A sharp current ran through my right arm and then I yelled and dropped the tweezers and it was over. Maybe I fried my brain a little and that's why I almost lost my passport in Brno.

I'm beginning to think that maybe you guys shouldn't be letting me travel alone. Or maybe I've just been traveling for too long and now I am getting sloppy.

Last but not least, the concert in the launderette. Well, that's all there really is to say. The expats who own a laundry have a band with some local gypsy children (I'm completely serious) and they had a small concert at their shop today. They played well and it was very entertaining. But then, my expectations were pretty low since it was a concert in a laundromat.

Who knew a Dutch guy could sing "Billie Jean" so well. (They had some of their own songs too.)


marilyn said...

An engineer who went to U of M pulled something out of a socket????? You seem to be always short of money. The blog starts out with a story about that. YOU DO LIVE A CHARMED LIFE. Sounds like the people there are wonderful. You are very lucky

Sandra said...

That lost wallet event is very similar to one of mine. Just proves, AGAIN, there are many more kind and caring people in this world than we are led to believe. Although, there seems to be an overabundance of them where you are.
You've made it sound so nice there I am sad I couldn't have come.

iwanagain said...

The story about the women with the apples is lovely.