Quick Update!

I am currently working on changing my WEB HOSTING, so I won’t be able to get a post out today! I will write one tomorrow morning when I have my blog situation under control. Thank you for understanding!

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Slovakia Day 20 – Castles, Trains, and Cake!

Today was amazing, and in many different ways. I got to experience so many firsts today, I am worried that I won’t be able to get it all in one post! I was able to see a fantastic castle and art gallery, and I was able to try the Slovak train system! I am very thankful for my fantastic new friends who went totally out of their way to do this, I couldn’t have done it without them. That being said, you wouldn’t believe what happened…

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I woke up very late today, as I was working hard on a secret project last night. By the time I had gotten dressed and ready for the day, it was lunch time. My host dad made this fantastic dish, which was sausages, potatoes, tomatoes, and onions all baked together into one fantastic meal. Apparently my host parents even made the sausages themselves, and they tasted fantastic! It was not long before it was time to meet my friends Tim and Peter at the local mall, so we could be on our way to Zvolen.

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Tim is such a great guy, and was a fantastic host. He bought my train ticket, which made me feel a little bad but he said it was no big deal. It was nice to be able to sit down and wait for our train, and to be able to talk to them. At school it can be pretty tough, because once one person starts talking in Slovak everyone does. That does make it a bit tough to just jump right into a conversation. Once the train got to our station, it was just us and the open… Road? Tracks?

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The ride to Zvolen did not take too long, as it was only 20 km away. I was like a dog the entire time though, sticking my head out the window. I probably looked really weird waving to all of the people on the streets as we passed by in the train, but I was having a ton of fun. It really made me happy when they would smile and wave back.

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Once we had gotten to Zvolen, we walked towards Tim’s house, where we met his sister Dorota. Once we had met up with her, it was onwards to the castle!

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On the way to the castle, we passed by a German armoured train from WW2, and there was no way I was walking past that without taking some pictures. I find it interesting, no I find it almost bizarre that they just walk right past these things without a second thought. I find it so cool that they live so close to such an instrumental piece of history.

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I hadn’t really known what to expect of the castle. Unfortunately, the “good” side of the castle was on the other side of the train tracks, so I was not able to get a good picture of it. I did however, get loads of pictures of the statues, paintings, and other historical objects that were in the Slovak National Gallery that the castle hosted.

Here is a little background on the castle.

Zvolen Castle was built for the Hungarian King Louis of Anjou in the final third of the 14th century, on the site of an older manor. Originally it server as the occasional seat of the royal court, from 1424 it was part of the estates of Hungarian queens. The castle has been part of the Slovak National Gallery since 1961. Taken from the pamphlet I was given at the beginning of the tour.

The art was fantastic in the castle, a lot of it ranging from the early 15th century, all the way to the 19th century. It was really neat to be able to walk around and touch something that has been around for longer than my home country has been alive. What I found really neat, although I don’t think I got a picture of it, was the paint on the walls. When they refurbished the castle, they left the original paint on the walls, so I could see what it looked like in the early 15th century.

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Once we had finished with the castle, we decided to go and walk and tour the square in Zvolen. It was very cool, although it did have very similar churches to the square in Banska Bystrica. Something that really interested me was this monument to the Soviets, being very well upkept and seemed very prominent in the city. I was told that much of the older generation has/had quite a liking to the Russians, however much of the younger generation seems to think differently. I am going to have to look into this more myself.

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This is a well, and that little white circle is the water at the bottom
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Old caste wall used to be where those stones are

While we were walking Dorota talked to me a lot, and I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the Slovak people. We talked for a good long while, and we kept on getting weird looks from other people on the street, probably because they are not used to hearing people talk in English.

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Once we had finished touring downtown, we walked back to Tim’s apartment, where his sister Dorota server us this fantastic chocolate fudge brownie. It was interesting, because it contained chocolate, coconut, and beets! It tasted fantastic, and I almost wish I would have asked for seconds.

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Tim and Peter are real pals. Once my train had come, they rode it all the way back with me, which I really appreciated. In order to try and say thank you, I bought them ice cream at a local shop in the Banska Bystrica town square. Next time I see them I am going to have to give them something, because I really appreciate what they did for me today.

Once they had dropped me off at my apartment, I sat down and relaxed. Only for a little bit of course, because right after dinner I went outside and taught some boys how to play baseball. It wasn’t “real” baseball, because we were using a tennis ball and that wooden stick that I bought the other day, but it was very fun, and they made me promise that I would come back and play with them again.

Today was very fun, but I am very tired. I hope that what I wrote was comprehendible, because I tried to cram a large day full of activities into a smaller post. Oh well. Tomorrow we are going to babickas cottage, and this time I will remember to bring my camera. I hope it will be fun, because we are going to be there all day. Anyway, I will stop rambling on and end this. Today’s word of the day is:

Dobrý – Good

Pronounced like dobry, I choose this because I said this sooooo many times while teaching the kids to play baseball!

All of these pictures were taken on a Sony A6000. If you are looking for a great lightweight camera that takes fantastic pictures, I would definitively recommend this setup here.

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens

Slovakia Day 19 – Baseball & KFC

I finally made a really nice, concise list of everything that I want/need to get done. Of course, I loose the list the second I make it, but it is the thought that counts. Either way, today was a really long, but short day as well. Let me explain.

I woke up this morning, rushed out to the bus stop, and right as I was jogging up to the station, the bus pulled up. Talk about good timing. While at school, there was a dedicated class period specifically for preparing for a project. The teacher wrote what seemed to be a bunch of random words on the board, such as honey, silk, or documentary film. All of these seemed to have no relation to each other, and when she was finished we were told to go write a tally mark on our chosen subject. I choose the only one I could really read (besides tree), and that was documentary film. Apparently, I am going to have to do this project with Martin, my neighbor, but I don’t have any clue what it is.

I had Slovak lessons today, which were right after I got out of school so I was not able to get lunch. I went over to the mall to get lunch, and I finally decided to try the KFC there. I was genuinely curious what kind of differences there was between American KFC and Slovak KFC. So I look on the menu, order some spicy hot wings, and wait. I get my food sit down, and take a bite of the wings and I was slightly disappointed. They were just plain wings. I go up to the counter, explain the situation and the cashier was very kind and gave me a whole new set of actual hot wings this time, or at least that’s what I thought. I took a bite into it and it seemed to taste plain again. I am not certain, but I have come to believe that Slovak people’s definition of “spicey” is a little different than mine.

Yesterday I promised my host sister that I would teach her how to play baseball. Of course, I brought my ever so dear baseball glove, but I couldn’t remember to bring a baseball. So I inquired where I could get a baseball in Slovakia online, and I was met with the response, “Good luck”. Nevertheless, I went to the local sports store right after school, which was called “Decathlon”. This store had everything from hockey gear to bike pumps. They didn’t however have a baseball. I guess I will have to either ask for one shipped from home, or get one mailed here from online.

I don’t have much today, although I feel like a lot is going on for me. I am talking with a few people and companies about different deals, and I am having to go through the process of switching hosts because I am having some issues with my current host (EDIT: For all of those concerned, I am having problems with my WEB HOSTING company, not my host family. I don’t think I could have a better host family!). Either way, a little stressful for me, but nothing major. Tomorrow I am going to a castle and possibly another jarmok in the city next door, so I should have a lot to write about tomorrow. But I couldn’t end a post without the word of the day! Today’s word of the day is:

Osem – Eight

Pronounced like osem in English, I choose this because in my Slovak language class we learned how to use numbers in different scenarios. This site here has a lot of helpful information on counting and the sort, would recommend it.

All of these pictures were taken on a Sony A6000. If you are looking for a great lightweight camera that takes fantastic pictures, I would definitively recommend this setup here.

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens

Slovakia Day 18 – Field Trip

I am extremely conflicted right now. Do I follow as my host family ask, or do I write as my heart desires? Screw trying to write an intro paragraph so it looks nice on facebook. It annoys me anyway. Wait, I think I just wrote one.

I have a lot to write, but I will start with the beginning. I knew that we would be going somewhere today, and I had a rough idea of where that would be. The name of the school that I go to, is Gymnázium Jozefa Gregora Tajovského, which was named after a famous Slovak playwright who is credited with birthing Slovak realistic drama. I could do more research on him, and write a really nice dedicated post about who he was and all of his amazing accomplishments, but for reasons that will be clear soon I am not able to do so.

We took the bus to the outer reaches of Banska Bystrica, although I am not sure but I think we did go into another town. The house we went to looked small from the outside, but it was quite expansive on the on the inside. There were 4 or 5 rooms, one of them being the kitchen area. I would have liked to have gotten more pictures, but I felt awkward taking a bunch of pictures around my classmates. I hate looking like some American tourist, I want to look like a Slovak student.

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It is safe to say I was very bored throughout the entire tour. I am sure it was interesting (that would be a lie, my classmates were bored out of their minds as well) but I don’t understand a single word of Slovak and the tour guide spoke what seemed like non-stop for a solid hour and a half. In the beginning I pretended to listen, but as my boredom stacked on I began to explore the building a bit. I don’t know if the Bystricans will find this offensive or not, but I feel like Jozef Gregor Tajorsk looks a bit like Lenin. Might be just me.

After the tour was finally over, we started our walk back. I hadn’t noticed how far and long we had been walking until I looked at the time. By the time we had gotten back to the school, we had walked 5.2km. I was a little surprised that we had to walk back that long of a distance, but it was fun to be able to talk to my classmates about trivial topics. It is interesting to see what they think about things like the migrant crisis, or England leaving the EU. I will do a separate post (what is that now, 3 promised posts?) about what I learned today, but for now I have more important pressing matters.

I had completely forgotten about having to go to CrossFit today, and I have come to severely regret decisions I made because of that. Right after school I went to the market and grabbed some chips, soda, and other snacks. I must admit I was pigging out on snacks under the excuse of “I am trying new foods”. I knew when I first showed up to CrossFit today that it would be an issue, and I thought to myself, “I could take this one easy, and not really force myself because I know I ate a lot of bad food before this. Or I could let my competitive instinct take over and give my 125% because for some reason I have to prove something.” I would like everyone now to take their bets on which choice I made.

Half way through the workout, I was not feeling it. I had to go to the bathroom because I seriously thought that those onion and sour cream Slovakian branded potato chips were coming back out the same way they came in. Fortunately, I talked that mentally and went to go and work out again. I am very embarrassed, and it takes a lot to embarrass someone like me. While we were doing our final circuit I knew it was coming, I could feel it. But, I didn’t want to weenie out and not do anything, if I was going to go out, I was going to go out with a bang. The second I jumped while doing this exercise, my calf started cramping so bad you could probably shoot it and the bullet would deflect off. I would hate to be a weenie about it, but it hurt pretty bad. I hate having people worry about me, so I felt terrible when all of the crossfitters had stopped their workout to check if I was ok. I pretended I was fine, got up and tried the next exercise. Then the other leg cramped. Some might think that it was out of frustration I left, but I knew that nothing good would come out of forcing myself to continuing to workout.

Now, because of the topics that were discussed, I feel like I shouldn’t share what happened when I got home today. My host family is fantastic, and was worried about me, so they had Martin, the same guy that took me to the car meet come over and translate some things for me. It was somewhat insightful, but I don’t feel like I learned anything that I hadn’t already know. But there was one thing that bothered me, and it is one of my only pet-peeves.

I was told that I should be more careful when I write, because Rotarians are reading my writing. I know that my host family is looking out for me, and only trying to have the best for me, which is why I take full responsibility for what I am writing. I am very careful with what I write, and I word things very carefully. My host family did not specifically say what it was that I had written that had caused such a commission, but I knew exactly what they were talking about.

If I have an issue with something here, I will systematically deal with it. I do not write what other people want me to write. I write what and when I want to, and I do it because I hope that can inspire and inform people about all of the different places that I visit. That being said, if I write something that is demoralising and demeaning towards a person, and I do it unknowingly, I will certainly take it down and/or word it in a way that satisfies said person. However, I will never change something that I had intentionally written. What I write is my opinion, and I am entitled to that. I value the freedom of speech and expression very high, and I hope all those who read this do as well. I will never back down from something that I believe is right, just because it offends someone else.

Anyway, it is almost 11 for me, and I have school tomorrow. Also it is not good to go to bed angry so I will just end it there. Todays word of the day is:

nahnevaný – angry

Pronounced nahnevany.

Slovakia Day 17 – Late Start & an Early Finish

Today was the first day it really rained here. Sure, there has been some light rain in the past few weeks, but there never was a solid rain shower. It was nice, to be able to wake up in the morning and listen to the rain, and it was even better when I was told I could go to school late. Today was a very good, relaxed day.

When I got up this morning, I did my normal procedure of showering, brushing my teeth, etc. But right as I was about to leave, my host mom came in and explained to me that My P.E. class was canceled and I wouldn’t have to go to school for another hour. I was excited, and relieved, because I would be able to sleep another hour. That is one thing that is different here, at least the impression I have been given. They don’t really have substitute teachers, it’s either the class is there or it is not. There really is no in between. But, I have only been here for two weeks, what do I know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I also found out that our classes end at lunch, so I was able to go home early today. Right after school I went out to this very hole in the wall cafe, where we played this Slovak board game. If you told me that I would win a million dollars if I could explain the rules of that game, I would have to tell you to keep the million dollars because I had no idea what was going on. It was very fun though, and I was able to get to know some of my classmates that I hadn’t really talked too much.

If I am going to be perfectly honest, I don’t have much to say today. When I am finishing up my posts, I always feel a little guilty because on slow days like today I always steal a picture that I hadn’t used from a previous day. But, tomorrow won’t be slow, as we are going on some kind of field trip? I just got the permission slip and passed it from my parents to my homeroom teacher because I had no idea what it said. I do know, that we are going somewhere and doing something about/with the founder of the school, but that is all I have been able to pick up in others conversation.

Well, that is all for today, but I couldn’t end my post without the word of the day! Todays word of the day is:

červená – red

Pronounced chervenya, and I choose this today because I worked on learning my colors in Slovak today. Not an easy feat let me tell you, especially when you try to do it while everyone else is speaking in German.

 

All of these pictures were taken on a Sony A6000. If you are looking for a great lightweight camera that takes fantastic pictures, I would definitively recommend this setup here.

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens

Slovakia Day 16 – Slovak Lessons, Rotary Meeting, and FINALLY Relaxation (ish)

Finally I can say that I don’t have much to write about today. For the past almost week I have felt almost guilty because I haven’t been recording every little detail of my day. My days were full of excitement and different adventures, but today I can almost thankfully say that it was not too different from an average day.

This morning I was told by my friend Martin that his dad would pick us up and take us to school this morning. I didn’t notice any kind of problem immediately, but when Martin got out of the car and went around back to get his things, I had a sinking feeling in my chest. When he pulled his bag out, he also pulled a bag with clothes and shoes. I asked him what it was for, but I already knew the answer. Of course, we had P.E. today, and I had no idea that we needed to bring clothes. I assumed that it would be like school in America where they issue you a uniform for P.E. but I guess not.

I had a mental dilemma this morning. Do I fight my competitive urges and not try my best in our soccer match for P.E., or do I go all out and risk getting all sweaty and gross. I am sad to admit the competitive side of my made the decision there and I had a blast playing soccer with the guys in my class. I would regret that decision through the rest of the day however, because I was terribly sweaty and gross. To anyone in my class that might be reading this; I do care very much about personal hygiene. I am just a very competitive person that’s all.

When lunchtime rolled around, I asked one of my new friends to show me how to go and get lunch. Tomas, was more than happy to agree and walked over with me. I apparently however, did not have any kind of credit, but that didn’t matter to the lunch lady. She was a real nice lady, and decided to give both me and Tomas a lunch, no cost to us. I really appreciated that, and I hope she knew I was genuine about it when I said Dakujem (thank you).

Right after lunch time, I had my first Slovak lesson. It was more or less what I expected, with the Banska Bystrica trio hardly understanding what the teacher was saying. I have done a little studying in my free time during classes (mostly because I can’t understand what any of the teachers are saying anyway) so I had a pretty good understanding on what she was teaching us. Poor Nikole seemed a little lost, I hope she spends a little time reviewing what we went over today because it is pretty crucial information.

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Fast forward 3 hours, and I was getting ready for the weekly Rotary meeting that I was told I needed to attend. I made certain to bring my camera and take some pictures, so that you wouldn’t be without visual aid. This week, I believe the mayor of Banska Bystrica came to speak, although it could have been a coffee shop owner for all I know because he spoke in Slovak for a good hour and never in English. The food was good though, which I did appreciate.

I am pretty tired, as today was my first day of “real school”. So I will end today with the ever so favorite word of the day! Todays word of the day is:

Zaneprazdeny – busy

Good luck pronouncing this one, because even I am not sure. I choose this because I have been busy for the past few days, I have come to know the word well (but not well enough to be able to say it without some help from my classmates!)

All of these pictures were taken on a Sony A6000. If you are looking for a great lightweight camera that takes fantastic pictures, I would definitively recommend this setup here.

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens

Slovakia Day 15 – Varecha, Medovniks, and some Trdelnik (What??)

As promised, today I went and took pictures and did some pictures on the fantastic festival that is called Radvanský jarmok. The more I found out about this crazy and amazing festival, the more I had started to fall in love with the city. Today I will tell you all about the CRAZY things that they do in this unbelievable city.

I woke up this morning, with a slight headache and sore throat. It was not unbearable, and after a little bit of water I was up and ready to go. I did notice however, throughout the day I was pretty tired. Anyway, I really lazed around for the first half of the day, only really leaving the comfort of my desk chair to go and eat lunch, which was a fantastic sunday soup. For anyone that doesn’t know, a large portion of Slovakia eats roughly the same soup everyday, which contains things like carrots, chicken or celery. Once I had finished the soup, I had told my family I was off. I was set to go out and discover what jarmok was all about.

I walked through the cemetery to get to the town square, and I felt a little silly that I was so well spooked yesterday. It is actually somewhat relaxing walking though there, because there really is not too much noise, and hardly any foot traffic. One thing I did notice while walking through there, was quite a few gravestones with dates in the 1940s. Not enough to make it outstanding, but there were a few.

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The scenery in jarmok was much different than it was yesterday. Today it seemed that they were closing down most of the shops, and there was a lot less people out and about. However, the stalls that I was looking forward to visiting were still open so I was able to visit them.

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I have to control myself. I have an unbearable want to write about something absolutely absurd and amazing, but I am going to have to hold off. I must save the best for last. Anyway, yesterday I described a cylinder type of sugar breaded dessert, and Trdelnik is the name of it. Yesterday, the one I had was fantastic, still steaming and cooked just right. Today however, mine appeared to have been sitting out for quite a while, and was burned all up and down the sides. Somewhat disappointed, yet I would still recommend that you try it (a fresh one that is).

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Something that I noticed while walking down the street, were many vendors selling these heart shaped cookies. I asked about them, and they are called medovniky, and they are apparently just like gingerbread cookies, except honey instead of ginger. How true this is, I am not sure. There will be a language barrier for a few months until I can start to really understand the Slovak language. Anyway, I did buy a bag off relatively plain looking cookies, which I can say tasted just as they might appear. I don’t know if there is some kind of huge traditional aspect around them, but they just tasted like any other cookie. I don’t quite understand why so many vendors would be selling them, but I guess they must sell quite a few for there to be that many.

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I did not go onto any of the rides today, mostly because I did not want to be the only one on the ride. That section of the festival was mostly desolate, really only occupied by the occasional parent being dragged around by their kid. I think it was safe to assume people really don’t start celebrations until later in the afternoon.

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Red and white are Banska Bystricas official colors, which come from its coat of arms. My host family did not know anything about it, but here is what I could find online.

The origin or meaning of these arms is not very clear. The arms date from the latter half of the 13th century and are most likely derived from the arms of the Arpad dynasty, who became extinct in 1301. (Source)

These pictures were taken over the Hron River, which flows through the city, and ends somewhere in or near Hungary.

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Finally, the part I have been most excited to write. Last night, I might have mentioned that a very interesting Banska Bystrica tradition took place. This tradition is that men walk around with spoon like paddles, and slap another girls ass with them. Of course, I am one for cultural enrichment so I set out and bought two paddles, one roughly about 9 inches in length, and one a little over a yard in length. I unfortunately, didn’t get to take part in any today, but don’t worry; I had gotten my fill last night.

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That is all for today! I had a lot of fun, and ate a lot of good food! Of course, I couldn’t end a post without the word of the day! Today’s word of the day is:

Verecha – Spoon

Pronounced like verehhha (a h that comes from the back of your throat), and this is the name of the spoon that is used for my oh-so-favorite tradition.

 All of these pictures were taken on a Sony A6000. If you are looking for a great light weight camera that takes fantastic pictures, I would definitively recommend this setup here.

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens