Weekend II. Part III.
Last Friday, we packed up and piled into the car for the 2.5 hour drive to Radkovice u Hrotovic, which is the little village Anna’s family is from. She was born and grew up there, and her mother and both her brothers still live there. Apparently, it was a big deal when she married outside of the village and decided to move to Prague. All in all, it was a pretty typical little village, as most villages are. The houses were bigger than one would find in an urban setting, but not particularly well kept. Anna was either friends or cousins with everyone, and there was everything you’d expect in a little village. A kindergarten with a little playground, lots of kids riding bikes around or just aimlessly wandering, cats and dogs roaming the streets and a few farm animals. There was a single pub, where we went Sunday afternoon, and a pond with ducks and geese on the edge of the town.
My Czech teacher talked today in class about the fact that we are lucky in Prague – there are many people who speak English, and almost everyone our age is conversational. But, she said, that is not the case outside of Prague and Brno. In the more rural parts of the country, very few people speak any English, and that was definitely my experience. The only person, beyond Anna and Filip, who spoke any English at all was a girl, maybe 11, also named Katherine (well, Katerina, actually, but that’s beside the point). Anna said she’s been taking English for five years (since grade 1), but my Czech was definitely better than her English. I think the only thing she said in English was “Hello.”
I’m not complaining, though, because it was definitely nice to get to just listen to people speaking Czech. I can already tell I am learning more, because I catch a word here or there, and can sometimes even figure out what people are talking about. The thing I enjoyed the most about this weekend was the difference in relationship I already have with Anna’s mom.
The very first week I was here, Filip had to go on a three day business trip to Moscow, so Anna’s mom came into Prague to help with the kids. She doesn’t speak any English, and I certainly didn’t have enough Czech to communicate with her. I also didn’t really know what was going on yet, and I was jet lagged, and we basically just avoided each other. In fact, I’m not sure we really said a single word to each other, except maybe “Ahoy” as she left with the kids in the morning. By the last morning, when I went with to take the kids to school, it was a bit less awkward, but we still didn’t have anything to say, because we didn’t speak the same language.
This weekend was a bit different. Clearly, I still don’t speak enough Czech to actually have a conversation with her, but I was able to say some basic things. Like “No, let me help” with clearing the table. Or when she asked me if I would like some tea, I not only understood, but was able to answer correctly. Obviously, a few phrases here and there doesn’t create a relationship, but it was nice to be able to at least say a few things. If nothing else, it felt less awkward, because we were at least interacting.
We didn’t have anything planned for Sunday, so Anna and Filip helped me with my Czech homework. My homework was to describe a picture of a small grocery store, but (in typical fashion) it turned into so much more than that. A family affair, so to speak. Emma and Jachym found a box of crayons and colored pencils, and began to color the image. So instead of writing about the price of the apples, I got to write about the price of the red apples. And the purple pants. And the blue sign. I had my very own special homework assignment; since I wasn’t going on the trip to Kutna Hora run by CIEE, I had to write three sentences about my weekend, so I wrote about Znojmo. And then Anna and Filip starting trying to explain to me the seven noun forms in Czech, which I only partially understood. I think I get it, but it will take a lot of practice.