Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Battle with Summer

My windows are big. When they are open, they are wide open. It's like removing a wall from my room and opening it to the world. It's finally cool enough to have them open during the day, after over a week of mid-nineties in a country without air conditioning anywhere. I can't open them at night until after I've turned off all the lights or I end up with an infestation that leaves thousands of dead gnats on my windowsill in the morning. When I stick my head out the window today, I can see the scorched earth crying out for rain. I can see the darkening clouds overhead, taunting us with the possibility of relief. And I am so angry with them, with the relentlessness of summer. I'm generally a pretty positive person about the world. What could be bad about sunshine? Ignoring the fact that I am actually allergic to being hot, summer is just too demanding for me.

I grew up in a vacation village. Summer always meant more people, longer shop hours, ice cream, and swimming. It meant whole days at the beach, just a short walk from home. As I got older, summer meant more tips, more money, and more time to spend it. From age seventeen on, summer always meant a new job. It was some temporary change that might lead me down another path in life, whether it be as a camp counselor or lock smith's assistant. But this summer, for the first time, I am doing the same job I've been doing all year. I suppose this consistency is part of growing up, but it feels like stagnation. I can't counter the itch to get up and go. In this country, they refer to the whole season as "the holidays" and flee to their cottages. I don't have that luxury. I took this past week off from work just because I wanted some sort of relaxation between now and Christmas. Everyone demanded, "What are you going to do? Where are you going? You can't just stay at home!" But I can't afford to go anywhere, beyond a few evenings in Prague. And I did have a wonderful vacation, swimming in the Vltava and relaxing in the park. But I will be made to feel like I wasted my time, just staying at home. The expectations! Why is this season full of so many expectations?! And everyone wants you to go out, have fun, be with your friends. No one talks about the fact that everyone is making less money and thus this going out thing is becoming pretty difficult. Suddenly you've got time to see your friends, but no money to do anything with them.

And so, the constant cheerfulness that gets me through the winter, through everything, it's been beaten down. For once, I give in to the negativity. I hate summer! I hate being hot! But once I make it through, I will have been here a year. I now know the way that seasons pass here, what to expect every month. So when my brain stops sizzling, I will be able to focus on what lies ahead. The fall brings among other things: my birthday, burčak, fall seasonal vegetables, pies, Halloween, another orphan Thanksgiving, the queer film festival, leaves changing, and hazelnuts everywhere. All of this is quickly followed by the magical two months of Christmas we seem to have.

So for now, I will drink my vastly overpriced seasonal drinks. I will swim in the Vltava and make liberal use of my water guns. I will ignore everyone else's demands, and keep the hope of 70 degree days in mind.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Day That's Hard to Beat

It's summer time and that means summer vacation for most teachers. It's odd that I count myself lucky for not having 8 weeks off in the summer, but it means that I don't have to find a way to make up for two months without a salary. So, bring on summer school! Well, it's preschool, so it's not exactly summer school. Each week, we have a theme and fewer kids than usual since most are on holiday. We've got some kids who will be coming for a week or two who normally go to other schools that are closed for the summer. This week's theme was fairy tales. I took an idea my boss had about going to the forest to find a witch and ran with it. I came to school today dressed as a fairy (yeah, I've got angel wings--the kids are 3 and 4, they don't care). I told them I was not Colleen but in fact Serafina. They went with it. If only I could have a preschooler's abilities when it comes to suspension of disbelief! I told them that I needed their help to defeat a witch who was living in the forest. They gathered their magic wands and we walked to the island. We followed a trail of gingerbread to a very big, old tree where the witch was living. We circled around it and waved our wands, shouting, "Abra Kadabra!" and heard the witch cry as she flew away.
"Where did she go? I didn't see her!" asked a student.
"I saw her. She's gone. She's really gone!" replied another.
"Where did she go?"
"To Africa!" (This is their new favorite thing, going to Africa, sending someone to Africa... don't know what that's all about.)
They discussed it for a while until they were all certain that the witch had left. Our work having been completed, we headed to the playground.

Let me tell you, walking around town today dressed as an angel was quite an adventure. I got so many disapproving looks from old ladies. I wonder if they assumed the angel costume was something naughty. Did they think I was a stripper? But at the bus stop (yes, I rode public transportation dressed like that), a grandfather brought his grandkid over to me and told her I was an angel. He asked if she saw a devil around and she said no and that devils are scary. Then, when I got on the bus, he said, "We get to ride with the angel! We are so lucky!" The toddler seemed pleased.

A lot of old men wanted to talk to me, but couldn't figure out what to say. I walked past a lot of toothless stuttering. Someone joked that they were afraid I had come to take them to heaven. "It's not my time yet!" they were trying to say. I'm ashamed to say... I laughed a little.

The best response, however, came from a young gentleman at the park who turned to his friend and said what translates effectively to, "Dude, am I drunk, or is that an angel?"

When we got back to school, I said goodbye and closed the door. I promptly changed clothes and put up my hair. When I came back, I asked where they had been. They told me the story about a fairy taking them to the woods. Again, the ability to play into what is an obvious hoax... so jealous!

After work, I went to pick up the newspaper, knowing that two of my friends were going to be in the Dnes Magazine, but not aware of how prominent they would be. When I saw them as the teaser photo for the magazine on the cover of the newspaper itself, I wanted to say, "those are my friends!" to the shopkeeper. I was back in my angel costume at this point, so I thought it best to give her only one reason to stare.

When I opened the newspaper right outside of the shop, standing in town square, I pulled out this. Maybe I've been reading too many Victorian novels, but I found myself so shocked that I needed to sit down. This is unbelievable! I thought to myself, as I sat in the town square... in an angel costume... holding a magazine with my friends on the front cover. What a day!