16 December 2008

On the Way Home

Friday, I went down to Kosice to meet Petra and her parents before the holidays. For the first time in four months, I passed a McDonalds – the DriveThru in Košice is kind of a big deal. As I begin to write this, speeding on a train somewhere between Bratislava and Vienna, again I’m seeing the Golden Arches. What a horrific eyesore they are! – and now that I’m in Vienna, add Starbucks to the list of eyesores.

Leaving Prešov and Ružomberok was hard – of course I’ll be back, but seriously, I’ve already become attached. I’m already so excited to come back to teaching and researching in January, renewed and with a new sense of purpose and some new ideas. Today in Ružomberok it became obvious how close I’ve become to some of the people there and how much I’m really going to miss them while I’m home. The atmosphere in both places is so unbelievably life-giving. I realize so often how many times I make gigantic mistakes speaking Slovak, making me kick myself because I forget or grossly mispronounce words in the excitement of the moment. And people are still so gracious and patient with me.

Finally, a small victory over the Slovak bureaucracy. Today, at the absolute last minute, I FINALLY got everything squared away with the police. After three visits, and me running up and down the hill/staircases at least twice, and a visit to the insurance office. Here’s kind of how it went (except in Slovak, not in English):
First visit:
Self: Here’s my letter from the doctors in Martin and my insurance card. Is it all ok?
Policeman 1: No, you need a potrvdenie from the insurance company. But I’ll make a photocopy of your insurance card while you have it here.
Self: Could you please write that down? Thanks, dovi (short, rather slang form of dovidenia, the equivalent of arrivaderci – we’ll see each other again soon).
[I return to school to try to get this potrvdenie. Happy School Admin Assistant makes a photocopy for me. I then return to the foreigner police.]
Second visit:
Self: Is this enough?
Policeman 1: No, that’s a žiadost, we need a potrvdenie.
[At this point, there’s another guy taking documents to the police, and he miraculously has an example of the document I need. Sometimes, seeing things helps immensely (cf. apostille debacle). Still, this document required that I go to the insurance office, grrr. Happily, Happy School Admin Assistant came with me, and she really exudes positive energy so it was a nice small excursion.]
Self: [steam blows out of ears]
[Self exeunt, to teach 4th hour.]
[After the 4th hour, HSAA and I go to the office, the woman knows exactly what we need and the mission is accomplished in like two seconds. I make sure there is a pečiatka on the letter.]
Third visit:
[The entire male staff of the foreigner police is standing outside on the stoop, smoking cigarettes. Some are in uniform, some are not.]
Self: Hello. How’s this document?
Policeman 1: You can give that right to him, he’s the one it goes to.
Policeman 2: So you’re pani Silvestri.
Self: Yes. So, we don’t need to see each other anymore do we? [crosses fingers, knocks on wood, etc.]
Policeman 2: No.
Self: [Jumps for joy on the inside.] Ciao!
Then I went down to the train station to get my ticket to Vienna, which the woman did not really do correctly, much to my annoyance.
Then I went to the post office to pay my phone bill, wherein I waited like a half hour, and two pushy old ladies told me to move forward more, and I told them, seriously, that it wasn’t going to make anything go any faster. I don’t think they think they were satisfied by my response -- sometimes I really think, even though comparisons are odious, about comparisons to the Italians. Alas, it seems I have a huge space in my soul for people who enjoy crowding in lines, be they Slovaks, Italians, or whomever. Personal space? What's that?
Then I went back to the station, because the Polish store there had been closed for lunch, but I really wanted to get some special Polish candies there, and happily I got the last two bags they had.
Then I went to the exchange place with the best rates to exchange my koruny for euros, which will be legal currency upon my return in January. Except that they didn’t have any, much to my annoyance. So I said to the woman, "how is it that in two weeks this will be the legal currency and you don’t have any?" And she stared and me blankly and I went to the bank across the street, which did not have such a good rate. Which is unbelievable considering the official exchange that exists and the millions they will make because of the millions of people that will be changing money in the next few weeks.

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