Camp, Coffee, Klavír, and Cheese!

It’s been a fairly ‘low-key’ week and a half (at least, compared to the full-tilt adventures I have been on the first few weeks), but I figured I should make a post anyways, since this weekend will be our first district meetup of all the exchange students in Czechia and Slovakia, and I’ll probably have lots to write about on that front.

To start, I’ve been getting better and better at trying out Slovak, and my first very proud moment in terms of language came last week, when I was able to order in a restaurant all by myself, without any assistance. I ordered another classic Slovak dish- fried cheese! (‘vyprážaný syr’). And of course, a Kofola as well. Now that I have books, and have begun working with my Slovak tutor twice a week, I find I am learning quicker and becoming more confident in trying to speak the language. It is harder in school with my classmates because I feel more pressure knowing that they speak both English and Slovak already, but slowly I am learning to try it out there, too.

And since we’re on the topic of fried cheese, I may as well make a short section regarding the food (mostly desserts- yum!) that I’ve been eating the past little while. Along with the fried cheese, I’ve had lots of good meals, mostly consisting of chicken or pork, mushrooms, veggies, and rice. However, I’ve begun to search around Banská for the best dessert places, and I’ve definitely found a few standouts. First of all, the clock tower ice cream, which I know I’ve talked about before, but WOW. I get it almost everyday, and am thankful for the steep 20-minute walk home afterwards to help me burn some of it off haha. Other than that, I tried an amazing Slovak dessert called Veterník, which is basically like a big pastry, cream-puff type thing with a hardened coating on top. I also found a crêpe cafe on a little side street, which has the best crêpes, both sweet and savoury, that I’ve ever had. And for only 3£!!

I will be back to try more of these soon 😉

Moving on from food, drama! I had my first experience with the school’s drama club last weekend, which was very interesting and very fun. I didn’t really know much beforehand (other than my line for the skit we were doing) about what the weekend would entail, and it definitely was not what I expected. We travelled by bus to the nearby village of Horná Lehota, where it turns out our group would be the entertainment (with our skit), and the helpers/leaders for a youth weekend with about 50 10-14 year olds. We performed our play the first night, in which I played a hamburger stand worker, and it went pretty well. It was mostly for fun, and we definitely had a lot of that during the performance, where many in the group improv’ed their way through (quite spectacularly, at that) because they hadn’t fully memorized their lines. It made for a great laugh for all of us. also that night, our drama group went for a walk (Friday the 13th AND a full moon- spooky!) up the big hill behind where we were staying. The moon was so bright we could still see perfectly! A beautiful night, too. The rest of the weekend we spent leading kids in games, attending evening church services, washing a LOT of dishes, and playing midnight games outside. These midnight games required us (the helpers) to stay up until 5 am cleaning up, and we had to wake up only two hours later to prepare for breakfast. I’m not a coffee drinker, but that weekend, I had to have quite a few cups to get me through the days. Also on one of the days we went for a beautiful hike- and got lost. The main group of kids had went on ahead while our drama group stopped for a couple minutes to look at some flowers and things on the side of the trail, and when we continued ahead, we came to a crossroads. Not knowing which way was correct (and without cell service at that time) we took our chances- and ended up walking 30-40 minutes in the wrong direction. What was supposed to be a 6km hike ended up being about 10-11km, but we eventually found the correct route and made our way home. Even though I had no idea what the weekend would be like going in, I ended up enjoying myself immensely and spent some great time with some great people.

Friday the 13th + Full moon!

Look closely- there is a massive cow on the horizon

The flowers that stalled us out on the hike
View of the village from our room

Once we returned to Banská Bystrica, even though I was thoroughly exhausted from the weekend, I met up with Sam and Gabi. The president of our Rotary club had invited us to go up with him on his plane for an overhead tour of Banská and the area! It was too good of an offer to pass up. I got to co-pilot, and even got to fly the plane for about a minute! It was terrifying, but super cool! Even cooler, the club president gave me a special keychain to put on my blazer for being his copilot.

On the way back from the airstrip, we stopped and walked to an opening of an underground spring! Slovakia is famous for its multitude of underground mineral water deposits, and we found the opening to one! Since I’ve unintentionally developed some sort of weird goal to drink water from Slovak waterways (as per last post), of course I had to try some natural spring water! And don’t worry, the water is completely healthy, and apparently Slovakia has some of the cleanest, most pure water in the entire world! Anyways the water tasted very mineral-y, but what was really cool about it was that it was naturally sparkling! I’m still waiting on those ‘Slovak superpowers’ though, haha.

Finally, this past week! On Monday, we drove along a very precarious and slightly nauseating mountain road, to Martin, a city about an hour away from Banská and with around 30,000 people. There, we got some blood tests and other exams done at the hospital that we needed to apply for our visas. Afterwards, we walked to the main square, and met up with Dominika! For those who don’t know, she was the exchange student in our district in Canada last year, who I met and became quick friends with. She gave me so many good tips in preparing for my exchange in Slovakia, and thus it was so nice to get to see her now, in her own country, and visit! I am sure I will see her again soon.

And then- today! It wasn’t very eventful, but there is one specific experience that I found so cool that I have to share.

So, since I’ve been in Slovakia, I have not had a piano to play, and it’s been driving me crazy. Luckily, we found out my third host father owns a music shop, so until I find an actual piano to play on, I can go there and play on an electric keyboard. Anyways- I went there for the first time today and met him. In the store at the same time was this lady, probably in her seventies, plucking away at a violin. She immediately began talking to me (in fluent english) and asked me to play something for her on piano! I began getting my books out but I think she could tell I was nervous, so she offered to play first! She got up with her violin and played the most entertaining and amazing piece I’ve ever heard!! It was a really lively and impressive Slovak folk song, and when she was done I was grinning from ear to ear!! And then, as if this lady couldn’t get any more amazing, I began to play on the keyboard (a Chopin tune) and she came up and started playing along with me on her violin!!! So I had an impromptu duet with this lovely lady in the middle of a music store. How unbelievable and amazing is that. Afterwards, I chatted with her for about 15 minutes, and it turns out she was a violin teacher at a high end conservatory in Bratislava for 40 years. Wow!!! She was so delightfully friendly and talkative, I could’ve sat there for hours! Unfortunately I had to leave for my Slovak tutoring, but I enjoyed talking to her so much that I actually asked if she’d come back to the music store sometimes so I could see her again and we could play or just chat!

Near Martin

Dominika!

Now that I think of it, I’m regretting the fact that I didn’t take a selfie with the wonderful violin lady! Hopefully if I see her I’ll get one next time.

Anyways, that’s been my week-and-a-bit! After this weekend I have a feeling things will slow down a bit and fall into more of a routine, so I maybe will begin to post only every 2-2 1/2 weeks! Unless you want to be bored by in depth recounts of my hours spent twiddling my thumbs in school, hehe.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading 🙂

~Graydon

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