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Re: Study in Slovakia

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  • genmom4
    Caye, I knew ahead of time that there would be no air-conditioning. Most times, it wouldn t be an issue, because the weather was not really humid, just hot.
    Message 1 of 17 , Oct 8, 2012
      Caye,

      I knew ahead of time that there would be no air-conditioning. Most times, it wouldn't be an issue, because the weather was not really humid, just hot. And there is a nice breeze in the evening. One must plan on bringing very light clothing, which I did.

      The issue at hand was the cigarette smoke. And I don't know what they smoke there, but the odor was much more pungent than what one smells here. This communist style building has the second and third floor bedrooms around the perimeter of the building. On the second floor, each of the rooms has a door that opens up into a public area. Now that area was pretty much covered with bird droppings, as swallows were nesting every couple of feet in the small awning above the rooms.

      But the compatriot youngsters did not seem to mind walking through the stuff, and they would sit out at night and smoke until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. When I mentioned it to one of the staff, I was told that it was illegal to smoke in the building. And that 10:00 p.m. was quiet time.

      How nice to have rules and not have anyone enforce them! On the first night, I brought this to the attention of the night guard, who did come up and speak with the kids. When he left, they began singing in a loud voice and kept on smoking. This went on every night. I decided that it wasn't worth my getting dressed to track down two flights of stairs and attempt to have a conversation with a night guard who didn't speak English. No matter who complained (I was not alone....there were people from other countries who accompanied their children to the program who were very upset) the end result was always the same.

      I don't begrudge the kids. But I was told that this was one of the calmest groups that had attended this program. I strongly feel that people who pay should be told of the situation and given alternative rooming possibilities.

      Due to my asthma, I just could not have the window open during active smoking, so you can only imagine how hot the room would be without any ventilation. I would think that the kids were finally asleep, sneak over to the window and open it, jump into bed and suddenly feel the tightness in my chest as the smoke would once again waft into the room. Oh, the wonders of youth needing so little sleep. But, really, what are they doing to their lungs? Can't help but wonder about their future.

      On our excursion to Bratislava, I went to Tesco and bought an 8 euro fan. Best money every spent in my life!

      We would close the window and run the fan which I could make oscillate. That fan came in handy as I used it to dry my underwear which I had to wash in the sink, as we never did figure out how the laundry facilities worked. I was told that I needed to get the key when the cleaning staff was in the building, but we had class at that time, and I couldn't figure out how I would get my laundry washed. So, everything was washed in a tiny little sink and hung in places around the room. I had brought clips for hanging, which certainly came in handy.

      Other people who washed their clothes this way, put them outside to dry, only to find bird droppings on them. No thanks!!

      On one of the last class days, I was asked to make a sentence with some words that were given to me: student and smoking. I said, in Slovak, students smoke in the evening. The teacher thought that I had translated it incorrectly. She went to correct me, to which my response was, "well, at this place they do!" My fellow classmates who were staying in the building with me, all laughed and agreed out loud. The teacher was shocked. Despite my brining this to the attention of staff on several occasions, nothing was done about it.

      I didn't want to come off as the complaining American, so I just dropped the fight after the second day and suffered through.

      The language program was definitely worth this aggravation. So that does say a lot about the actual program which is what kept us there.

      I highly recommend the program as a jump start for learning the language.
      I thought the cost was quite reasonable, and Slovakia is really a very inexpensive place to visit. And there are certainly many beautiful areas to explore.

      The staff claims that they want more people to enroll in this program. I did send a suggestion list to the staff, written in Slovak. Hopefully they can read it.
      I do not believe in complaining about an issue without brining it to the attention of those in charge. Hopefully, some changes will be made to make it a little less stressful on participants.

      But if you like birds and can sleep through noise......this is the place for you!

      -
      >
      >
      >
      > Barbara, thanks so much for sharing.
      >
      > Unfortunately, we in America are quite spoiled -- very few hotels in Europe (or anywhere overseas I've traveled) have air conditioning -- Europeans are very ecological and live much simpler lives than we do -- and as you learned walk way more than we do.  Glad you didn't give up the ship and enjoyed your time.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > _
    • genmom4
      Julia, I had wondered about the dialect issue myself. Although my paternal grandfather came from Zavar, my other relatives all live in Eastern Slovakia, and I
      Message 2 of 17 , Oct 8, 2012
        Julia,
        I had wondered about the dialect issue myself. Although my paternal grandfather came from Zavar, my other relatives all live in Eastern Slovakia, and I wondered if they would understand me. But, I was told that they should have all learned textbook Slovak, so they should.

        This program opened my eyes to quite a bit of information of which I was unaware (including the nesting habits of swallows who obviously take longer than 3 weeks to leave the nest after hatching).

        I met a teacher from Romania, in her early 20's, who was there because she lived in a community where everyone spoke Slovak. She told me that the community had been there for 5 generations. So, the families continue to speak Slovak even though they live in Romania. This young lady wanted to improve her reading and writing of the language because she needed to teach the students the grammar, as well as teach them Romanian.

        There was also a teacher from Hungary who was there for the same reason. Most of these "compatriots" were there to learn the grammar because they could speak Slovak but could not write it, or read it, as they went to Hungarian schools where they were taught in Hungarian.

        There was a group that came from the Ukraine as well. Some of the students were quite conscientious and were there to learn what they needed to know so that they could apply to a University in Slovakia. They needed strong grammar skills in order to be admitted.

        It was really quite the mix. and quite a learning experience for me, as we learned things that we never would have been taught in school. Especially about the Velvet Revolution. It is fascinating to hear different viewpoints of this time period.

        Our teacher brought in envelopes that had been her father's. He had a relative in the United States who would send money. The money would be confiscated by the aurthorities who had special equipment to scan the letters looking for bills inside. The envelope would be opened, money taken out, a voucher placed inside to be used at a special store run by the government for things that would generally be very expensive, then the envelope was resealed with special brown tape.

        She said that her family eventually figured out how to put the bills in aluminum foil because the machine could not recognize the bill.

        We learned about the so called conspiracy involving Stefanik's death. My cousin had told me this in the past, but I just thought that it was her opinion. This teacher told us that Stefanik's name had been removed from all history books when she was in school. They were not to learn about him. BUt her father would rip pages out of her history books and tell her that it was garbage.

        This was definitely much more than a language course. We learned about Slovak culture and some history as well. Like you said, I'm so glad that we decided to stick with the program.!

        By the way, if you went to Modra now, you would need to take cash, or take it out of the ATM machine. Few places will take the credit card. In fact, when I went to Slovakia with my husband in May of 2010, we only used the credit card. But now, since the European cards have a security chip in them, the American cards are shunned at most places. I was really surprised by this.

        Barbara

        --- In Slovak-World@yahoogroups.com, Matchett <wmatchett@...> wrote:
        >
        > Barbara,
        >
        > Your photos are beautiful. Made me want to hurry back to lovely Slovakia. I attended the Slovak summer program in Bratislava in '02. It felt it was fairly well organized. Good thing you both stayed with it. My class moved quite fast and I was stunned when I learned the Slovak I knew was the Zahorie dialect!
        >
        > I arrived on a Sunday also. Got my room and then went to a store. I loaded up a basket with food and then found out they wouldn't take U.S. dollars or Euros at the time! I put everything back and went back to the dorm. I drank some water out of the sink and went to the bank in the morning to exchange money. I only had one credit card and was afraid to try the ATM that first night. Over all it was a great experience and wished it lasted longer. Julia Matchett
        >
        > > My daughter and I enrolled in the Slovak Summer Study program which was held in Modra-Harmonia for 3 weeks in July. I had a lot of difficulty getting information pertaining to this program in this location, but we decided to give it a try.
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
      • genmom4
        Please feel free to direct any inquiries my way, Martin. I d be happy to answer any questions about the course. Barbara
        Message 3 of 17 , Oct 8, 2012
          Please feel free to direct any inquiries my way, Martin.
          I'd be happy to answer any questions about the course.
          Barbara

          --- In Slovak-World@yahoogroups.com, "votrubam" <votrubam@...> wrote:
          >
          > Thank you, Barbara, for the highly meaningful account (and nice pics). I've had occasional queries about the program, but knew nothing about it. I'm glad to be able to direct people to your description from now on.
          >
          >
          > Martin
          >
        • votrubam
          ... Actually, they never leave the nest they were born in until they migrate south in the fall. ... Some much longer, since the late 1700s. Bram Stoker had a
          Message 4 of 17 , Oct 9, 2012
            > (including the nesting habits of swallows who obviously
            > take longer than 3 weeks to leave the nest after hatching).

            Actually, they never leave the nest they were born in until they migrate south in the fall.


            > I met a teacher from Romania, in her early 20's, who was
            > there because she lived in a community where everyone
            > spoke Slovak. She told me that the community had been there
            > for 5 generations.

            Some much longer, since the late 1700s. Bram Stoker had a rather unflattering paragraph about the Slovaks of Romania (Transylvania) in _Dracula_ in 1897:

            "The strangest figures we saw were the Slovaks, who were more barbarian than the rest, with their big cow-boy hats, great baggy dirty-white trousers, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails. They wore high boots, with their trousers tucked into them, and had long black hair and heavy black mustaches. They are very picturesque, but do not look prepossessing. On the stage they would be set down at once as some old Oriental band of brigands. They are, however, I am told, very harmless and rather wanting in natural self-assertion."

            Some of them (only some) actually moved there from what's Hungary today, where their ancestors had resettled earlier, not directly from Slovakia.

            > So, the families continue to speak Slovak even though
            > they live in Romania.

            That has been quite common in farming areas of Central Europe, because the migrants created their own majority language areas where they settled. The cultures of farming communities have a lot of inertia by comparison to urban areas (not to mention hunters and gatherers). For instance, some people still speak Croatian in south-western Slovakia although their ancestors arrived 400+ years ago.


            > a voucher placed inside to be used at a special store
            > run by the government

            Here's an old thread about the Tuzex stores:

            <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Slovak-World/message/22809>


            > Stefanik's death. My cousin had told me this in the past,
            > but I just thought that it was her opinion.

            Few Slovak historians give it any credence.

            > that Stefanik's name had been removed from all history books

            Not just his. The Communists, on the whole, taught close to nothing about Czecho-Slovakia's democratic period between the wars. President Masaryk, others, were hardly mentioned at all, except in about one sentence in all of history -- as horrible people who made the new, post-WW I, country capitalist. All that happened during that period was ruthless exploitation and the Communists' heroic fight for, well, communism. And literature was written during that period (but no religious poems).


            Martin
          • Ron
            ... This reminds me of 1993, talking to our Latvian secretary while working on the US embassy renovation. She told of her mother, a newly retired teacher, who
            Message 5 of 17 , Oct 9, 2012
              > > Stefanik's death. My cousin had told me this in the past,
              > > but I just thought that it was her opinion.
              >
              > Few Slovak historians give it any credence.
              >
              > > that Stefanik's name had been removed from all history books
              >
              > Not just his. The Communists, on the whole, taught close to nothing about Czecho-Slovakia's democratic period between the wars. President Masaryk, others, were hardly mentioned at all, except in about one sentence in all of history -- as horrible people who made the new, post-WW I, country capitalist. All that happened during that period was ruthless exploitation and the Communists' heroic fight for, well, communism. And literature was written during that period (but no religious poems).
              >

              This reminds me of 1993, talking to our Latvian secretary while working on the US embassy renovation. She told of her mother, a newly retired teacher, who had to work through a major crisis after the collapse of communism. She realized she had spent her lifetime teaching many falsehoods, and had trouble coming to grips with that.
            • genmom4
              I cannot thank you enough, Martin, for your enlightening comments. As I had mentioned, this language course taught far more than just an introduction to
              Message 6 of 17 , Oct 10, 2012
                I cannot thank you enough, Martin, for your enlightening comments.
                As I had mentioned, this language course taught far more than just an introduction to learning how to read and write Slovak.

                I find your comments fascinating. I chuckled at the description of the Slovaks that you reference.

                And I appreciate your verification regarding the Slovak history being censored.
                Do you know how the Slovak government handled the rewriting of Slovak history after the fall of communism? I'm curious as to how the material in print today was chosen. Who chose it, and how long did it take to get into print?

                Finally, I have to admit that I'm glad that I didn't know that the sparrows never left the nest. My daughter and I would come back to the room each day hoping that they had flown on their merry way, just because of the sheer numbers of them and the inevitable accumulation of bird feathers coming through the windows. Plus, I can tell you for fact, that those little birdies only sleep about 3 hours at night.

                Now I'm curious about these birds......we watched the mothers constantly flying back and forth, feeding the baby birds. Do the little ones grow to full size over the summer and eventually go out and get their own food over time?

                Barbara



                --- In Slovak-World@yahoogroups.com, "votrubam" <votrubam@...> wrote:
                >
                > > (including the nesting habits of swallows who obviously
                > > take longer than 3 weeks to leave the nest after hatching).
                >
                > Actually, they never leave the nest they were born in until they migrate south in the fall.
                >
                >
                > > I met a teacher from Romania, in her early 20's, who was
                > > there because she lived in a community where everyone
                > > spoke Slovak. She told me that the community had been there
                > > for 5 generations.
                >
                > Some much longer, since the late 1700s. Bram Stoker had a rather unflattering paragraph about the Slovaks of Romania (Transylvania) in _Dracula_ in 1897:
                >
                > "The strangest figures we saw were the Slovaks, who were more barbarian than the rest, with their big cow-boy hats, great baggy dirty-white trousers, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails. They wore high boots, with their trousers tucked into them, and had long black hair and heavy black mustaches. They are very picturesque, but do not look prepossessing. On the stage they would be set down at once as some old Oriental band of brigands. They are, however, I am told, very harmless and rather wanting in natural self-assertion."
                >
                > Some of them (only some) actually moved there from what's Hungary today, where their ancestors had resettled earlier, not directly from Slovakia.
                >
                > > So, the families continue to speak Slovak even though
                > > they live in Romania.
                >
                > That has been quite common in farming areas of Central Europe, because the migrants created their own majority language areas where they settled. The cultures of farming communities have a lot of inertia by comparison to urban areas (not to mention hunters and gatherers). For instance, some people still speak Croatian in south-western Slovakia although their ancestors arrived 400+ years ago.
                >
                >
                > > a voucher placed inside to be used at a special store
                > > run by the government
                >
                > Here's an old thread about the Tuzex stores:
                >
                > <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Slovak-World/message/22809>
                >
                >
                > > Stefanik's death. My cousin had told me this in the past,
                > > but I just thought that it was her opinion.
                >
                > Few Slovak historians give it any credence.
                >
                > > that Stefanik's name had been removed from all history books
                >
                > Not just his. The Communists, on the whole, taught close to nothing about Czecho-Slovakia's democratic period between the wars. President Masaryk, others, were hardly mentioned at all, except in about one sentence in all of history -- as horrible people who made the new, post-WW I, country capitalist. All that happened during that period was ruthless exploitation and the Communists' heroic fight for, well, communism. And literature was written during that period (but no religious poems).
                >
                >
                > Martin
                >
              • votrubam
                ... Instead of leave, it would have been clearer to say never abandon : the young swallows/martins do fly out of the nest and feed on their own soon, but --
                Message 7 of 17 , Oct 10, 2012
                  > Do the little ones grow to full size over the summer and
                  > eventually go out and get their own food over time?

                  Instead of "leave," it would have been clearer to say "never abandon": the young swallows/martins do fly out of the nest and feed on their own soon, but -- unlike many other birds -- the parents as well as the young ones always come back to their nest (which gets pretty crowded) for the night, sometimes to rest during the day and stay in when it rains, until they leave in the fall. The young ones begin to breed when they return the next year and build their own nests.


                  > Do you know how the Slovak government handled the rewriting
                  > of Slovak history after the fall of communism? I'm curious
                  > as to how the material in print today was chosen. Who chose
                  > it, and how long did it take to get into print?

                  Rather poorly. Textbooks are commissioned by the Ministry of Education for the whole country, it took more than a decade to replace the old ones. One of the problems was that there were no experts who would have done, or could have done, sufficient amount of independent research into the "prohibited" period to churn out new textbooks fast. And partly, historians, especially those paying some attention to those periods, were among the groups of people more subservient to the Communists (and often Communist Party members themselves).

                  The two aspects of it generated each other, so to say. If someone wanted to stir really far away from the Communist doctrine, s/he might avoid studying history altogether, and if in history, the person would stir away from Central European history of the 20th century. And if someone didn't, s/he probably was someone who wanted to tout the Communist doctrine (meaning, why -- otherwise -- would you want to "study" a period if you realized you'd be obligated only to "discover" and publish lies).

                  So it took years after the collapse of communism for the historians, especially the maturing generation, to learn and digest the early 20th century, the textbooks came after that.

                  The current "black hole" is the teaching of history under communism.


                  Martin
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