Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The canteen, cafeteria, was all decorated, the tables had white table clothes, there were many bottles of wine and everyone had a shot to start the evening off with. We all brought a secret Santa present, we were supposed to bring something that started with the letter "a" and it should not have cost more than 50SK (roughly $2.36). I brought a fake apple like you can find in the floral section of a store and a box of apple Cinnamon tea (apple in Slovak is jablko, but I was told I could use English or Slovak for the gift). The gift I received was a bottle of Nivea lotion and a bottle of Nivea body wash. Neither start with "a" in Slovak, which many people pointed out to me. They also pointed out that it is a good product.
We did the exchange of presents after our meal of soup and bread. We had some desserts too. While we were eating the bottles of wine were opened. There were probably about 18-20 tables, each with three or four people, and each had either red or white wine. After the gifts were opened and some visiting started our entertainment for the evening started. Two teachers from the gymnasium played guitars and sang for us. A number of people sang along with the songs, I sat and listened since I did not know any of the songs. It was fun to hear songs in Russian, Czech and Slovak. There were even one of two Roma (Gypsy) songs played. It was fun being there, experiencing this event and seeing my colleagues really enjoying themselves.
One of the things I found most entertaining about kapustnica was that the school day was shortened because of it. Classes were five minutes shorter, lunch period classes were cancelled, 8 year program classes meeting 7th period were cancelled and 5 year program classes meeting 8th period were cancelled. All so the teachers could have a party. I have never worked in a school in another country, so I do not know if this would happen, but I cannot imagine it would happen many places.
Oh! I have some exciting news. This morning the other two lecturers and I woke up early to catch a train at 6:42 to go to the town of Ružomberok. We had to go to the Foreign police this morning for some special business. I now have my working visa! It took a really long time, but now I am kind of a European Union (EU) citizen until the end of June. I can now sign books and such at school. This is very important and exciting.
Later I plan to write about my Christmas experiences. I will not be back in the USA for Christmas, I will be staying in Europe. I will not be in Slovakia though. I was invited by a friend to go to Denmark so I will be with him and his family for Christmas. We will fly out together on Sunday, December 21 and fly back Tuesday, January 6. I also have plans to visit a good friend of mine who is from Denmark. We met while I lived in Germany, we were in the same seminar group and worked and lived at the same place. We are very excited because we have not seen each other since we each left Germany in the summer of 2006. I am really looking forward to my Christmas break in Denmark.
Pictures from Kapustnica can be found at:
Sunday, December 7, 2008
For those who are not familiar with the holiday of St. Nick's Day, it is a celebration that takes place on December 6. The night of December 5 children put out shoes or socks and hope that St. Nick comes and leaves them goodies. Usually the goodies are candy or other types of presents. In my family we would always leave wooden shoes by the front door. When I went to college my St. Nick goodies came in the mail instead. Well, Slovakia also celebrates St. Nick's Day, but instead of Nick (Nikolaus) they use the name Mikuláš because that is the Slovak form of the name. Does that name sound familiar? If you answered yes then you are right! The town I live in is named for St. Mikuláš, so they have a celebration each year at this time. The whole country actually celebrates the day, but not everywhere has this particular celebration. Some Slovak families use St. Nick's as a day to gather and open their presents. One of my friends who is Slovak, I met him when I lived in Germany, called on his way to his parents. He showed some real dedication because he had just gotten off work and was going from Bratislava to his parents (I think it is about an hour away), opening presents, going back to Bratislava that night, sleeping a little and going to work again. I am not sure if it is as big a tradition in every one's family, but it is in his.
OK, so you might be wondering what Liptovský Mikuláš does for its celebration. The name of the celebration is Mikulášsky Jarmok. It went from December 4-December 6. There were carnival rides set up in one square in town and there were booths set up throughout the entire downtown area of Mikuláš. The people at the booths were selling crafts and some sold food and drinks, Medovina or Punč. The market and carnival opened Thursday and Friday there were different performances happening on stage in one of the squares. Since Saturday was the last night and the actual day of St. Nick there were big closing performances. The first performance at 7pm was a fire show. There were a number of performers who did routines with sticks on fire. After they were finished there was a concert of the band Desmod. They are a Slovak group that does hard-rock, soft-rock and I was told punk too. I went to both of these and it was a lot of fun. I could not really understand the songs since they were in Slovak, but I recognized a couple from the radio. It was a lot of fun to be around for something that is special like this.
For pictures from Mikulášsky Jarmok visit the following site: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=187008&l=ade98&id=682430592
Video of the Fire Show and Desmod.