Language adventures

Czech is a difficult language of very limited usefulness. Even so I feel a bit guilty about my lack of effort. I just take the role of accessory to my husband and have not made much attempt to learn it.

This brings me to last night, standing in the cold crisp dark evening locked outside the gate at the front of the property. I had gone for a short walk to find wireless Internet waves in the town. Meanwhile N and N had returned from their ski marathon and locked the gate. I knew there HAD been a bell but I couldn’t find it in the dark. Shouting would have been useless since the house was 50 m away and tightly closed against the cold. Even the dog was warm in the kitchen.
[Here is a daytime view from near the house, looking down the yard to the front gate; N and A are posing.]

I eyed the top of the gate – a good 5 feet high. The fence was a bit lower but topped with barbed wire. If my life depended on it, I could get over, at least if I solicited the assistance of a passerby. (I could probably indicate my need and intentions through gestures for that. You can entertain yourself by imagining me throwing myself against the gate and struggling to get my feet up, gesticulating wildly to a dumbfounded stranger, who would probably be able to find the bell anyway.)

Finally I faced the fact that I’d have to do what I had thought of from the start. I rang the neighbor’s bell, which we had rung the day before so J could wish them happy new year. The woman came out. I hadn’t seen her on this trip but we were old buddies because she was bald and doing chemotherapy for breast cancer the last time I was here. I announced in my best Czech “ne mam kliče” (which means “I don’t have a key”. She seemed to know me and understand my predicament and proceeded to unlock the gate that they conveniently have into “our” yard. She chattered away and I said “nerozumim” and “dekuje” which mean (when spelled and pronounced correctly) “I don’t understand” and “thank you”.

Inside the house everyone was very impressed with my ability to say that one sentence. Believe me, I was lucky because I have few words and almost no verbs at my disposal.

Today I am on the train by myself, en route to join A in Prague. The others will come the next day and we leave Thursday.The train has been mysteriously stopped for 45 minutes and various announcements have been made. My compartment-mate went off to apparently search for better cell phone reception elsewhere on the train. Because she left her things here, I figure she’ll return here first if we need to evacuate the train for some reason. Then I can observe and follow!

She has returned now and speaks excellent English.

Update: We were stopped for 3.5 hours before resuming the journey! My view from the window is shown in the photo. This long stop was certainly not typical of the Czech train system, which is usually very reliable. In the end, I was given a candy bar to eat, and a Kc100 voucher for future use on the train.