March and April have been pretty low key compared to the past few months. Only a few things really stick out in my head.
1. Maturita- In order to graduate high school in Slovakia, you need to pass the leaving exam, otherwise known as the Maturita. The students, during March, took the English writing, math (optional), and the 4th years took their Slovak language exam. This was a little nerve racking, even for me, because I have been the one in charge of the 5th year writing class. We will see in just a few short months whether or not I have been an effective teacher. They still have English conversation remaining, along with their choice of any two other subjects coming up in May.
2. English club- My first year English club has continued to hang on, sometimes by a thread, but it is still withstanding the length of this year thus far. In the past few months, we have watched movies, sang karaoke, painted eggs and made cupcakes, and this past week made halušky- the national Slovak food- potato dumplings with sheep cheese and bacon. It has been nice getting together with students outside of the classroom to really just spend time together, do a fun activity, speak English, and get to know them better. On top of all of this, I have seen a huge growth in the students since the beginning of the year. The past two weeks, they have worked completely on their own with just my overseeing help. In Slovakia, most people do not make cupcakes or even know what they are. My students not only made them on their own, but they also read and followed an English standard measurement recipe. They also completely prepared the halušky on their own and gave me a few pointers and directions along the way. I have been mighty impressed with their abilities to lead and take control.
A few of the boys cutting up the bacon for the halušky.
3. Easter- Over Easter, I first travelled to Košice once again to meet Ashley and her parents. It was wonderful to see her again and to be able to meet her terrific and hilarious parents. The first moment upon arriving at the hotel, they handed me a gift of American peanut butter. What isn’t to love about them?? After two days in Košice, I travelled to Krakow, Poland with Krystal, one of the new American lectors in Tisovec. We went to Auschwitz concentration camp on Saturday and got a tour of the grounds. After the tour, we went to the Easter market in the town square which was full of Easter eggs, taffy, and porcelain. It was so festive and amazing. We were also able to go to an English church service Easter morning which was the best thing ever. I have not been able to understand a full service since November, so it was a real treat. Although the weather was not ideal at some points in time, it was still a very informational and cultural experience.
Inside of the gas chamber.
At Birkenau, if you were deemed not able to work upon arrival, you were sent to the right, down this path, which led straight to your execution. If you were chosen as able to perform manual labor, you were sent to the left, into long, drafty “homes” where you slept on planks of wood, and sometimes hay or paper if you were lucky, with about two to three other people per “bed”.
The little Catholic Church we went to on Easter morning.
4. Easter traditions- Thankfully, I did not have to partake in any Slovak traditions since I was in Poland, but I thought I would share the biggest one. On Easter Monday, the boys celebrate their favorite holiday of the year. At this time, they go to girls (it can be any at all, but most often they just go to family and friends) and splash them with water or perfume, or tap them (hopefully very gently) with a whip. This is to give the girls health and fertility for the upcoming year. After this, the girls must reward the boys with chocolate, candy, or money. I haven’t exactly figured out yet how or why this tradition started or still exists, but it sure is a one of a kind event.
5. Birthdays- Since beginning to write this post, Katherine and I have both now celebrated a birthday in April. It was my first birthday away from home, which was hard, but nonetheless, it was pretty good. I baked a fruit cake for the staff at school and celebrated today, the Friday after. I received a bunch of chocolate, a mug, and a few interesting words of wisdom/ gifts from some of my colleagues. I also had one of my classes all stand up and sing to me before the class began and one student sang a very short rap that he composed himself. In addition, I also received a bunch of cards written from home from family, friends, and people in our congregation. It was the little things that really made this birthday special, despite the people that were missing in the celebration. Finally, I was able to call my grandmother the midnight before my birthday. By doing this, I was able to talk to her on both of our birthdays at once. Hers is the tenth, mine the eleventh, and by calling at midnight, it was my birthday in Slovakia, and her birthday in the states. Pretty awesome thought on my behalf, I must say.
Otherwise, school is continuing on and drawing to a close oh so quickly. It will be so soon when there will no longer be months to count, but weeks. Until then, remain positive in spirit, hope, and prayer.
“However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all“- Ecclesiastes 11:8
Now that the holidays and celebrations are over and spring has yet to be sprung, at least here in Slovakia, there may be times and days when we get down on ourselves, about our luck, situations, or others. But, we must always remember the good that has been created in our lives by our sovereign lord. Although the weather may be dreary and miserable, this means that spring is here and good weather is on its way. This also means that harvests will be plentiful and the vegetation will be numerous. There may not be any holidays or special days of which to commemorate in the near future, but we have just celebrated one of the most joyous and essential holiday seasons of the year, Easter, the rising of Christ, and should continue to celebrate this all throughout the year. We must always keep in our minds the good that will triumph in our lives if we just keep our hearts and minds open to the possibilities. As long as we live on this earth, we shall enjoy the days, celebrate, and praise the lord for what we are given.
"This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” - Psalm 118:24