Saturday, November 07, 2009

Nerozumím Slovensky

Thursday and Friday, there was a sudden influx of American tourists in Bratislava Old Town. I was startled to hear to hear the slangy sentence construction and flat consonants of American English as I walked to work Thursday morning. It was a real pleasure to hear American-accented English after nearly two weeks abroad.

I've been forcing myself to use a few Slovakian phrases like "thank you," "please" and "good morning." However, this has prompted a startled response, three or four times now, from a cashier or barista. One male cashier at a supermarket actually scrunched up his face with such disgusted confusion when I said dakujem ("thank you"), I thought I might have also farted without realizing it. My host later explained that Slovakian (or Czech) words spoken with an American accent sounds extraordinarily odd to locals.

This is my third trip to Europe, and when you are immersed in a non-English speaking culture it's easy to allow oneself to be drawn into a kind of cocoon. And it's not like I don't spend time in my own head enough already. I don't know if it's considered rude to faze out when you're part of a conversation where your language is not automatically spoken; I try not to stare off into the middle distance and instead attempt to follow the thread of conversation by the others' voice inflection and body language.

This has all given me a fresh perspective on the immigrant experience in Los Angeles, to say the least.

Apropos of nothing, I stumbled across an Ed Hardy store in Old Town. Talk about cultural whiplash.

And I heard from the people running a Twitter account for travelers to Bratislava. Small world. CLICK HERE to follow it. I submitted three tips and they chose two of them; as of today, they are still near the top of the queue, linking back to my GPTimes adult-biz Twitter account.

Off to Prague, a city with which I have fallen in love, on Monday. "Prague is an easy city to love," my guide said. This will be my fifth country in three weeks: the U.S. of A. (natch); Vienna, Austria (just to and from the airport); Bratislava, Slovakia; Budapest, Hungary; and now Prague, Czech Republic.

Weather took a turn towards snow for a couple of days — huge, wet flakes that fell in clumps from low-hanging grey clouds and melted instantly. I remarked to my guide that I would like to visit Bratislava when it is warm. He replied, with what I've come to recognize as customary Slovakian dourness, "This has not yet happened."

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