Being significantly more adjusted to my new timezone, I have finally opened my laptop to write a new blog post without deciding that I would rather sleep for the next 7 hours. Upon my arrival to Martin, reality sunk in, and I remembered I would be starting school on Sept 2nd. Truth be told, I was more terrified to go to school than I was to navigate two airports by myself to even get here. There is little that is more terrifying than being a teenager and knowing you will be judged by OTHER teenagers and you can’t even understand what they are judging you on.
Inevitably, the first day of school came, and my nerves woke me up at 6:00, when school started at 9:00. I was ready for school at 7:30 and then laid in bed to conjure up what terrible things could happen to me at school (what else would I do). We took a bus to school and arrived to see the courtyard (where the main entrance is) packed with fashionable Slovak teens greeting each other upon the return from summer holiday. Barbora and I stood awkwardly amongst the crowd, and she informed me that we were waiting for the headmaster to make a “welcome back” speech. It was just as hard for her as it was for me, as she was on exchange in Argentina last year and all of her classmates already graduated. In the meantime, my brain was spinning from all the separate conversations I was trying to understand. The culture shock I experienced in my first few days here, however, is mostly gone. After the speech, we all made our way into the school to change shoes. In Slovak culture, you change your shoes when you enter a house so the dirt from your outdoor shoes doesn’t come inside. In school, we do the same thing, and each “class”, or group of students you attend all your classes with, has a changing room. Don’t let the term “changing room” fool you, because they are actual cages (which was very concerning to see for the first time, I really thought it was for disciplinary action). I made it to my first class and my teacher introduced me to the students and explained that this group of students was a bilingual class, so we would take several subjects in English. I allowed the butterflies in my stomach to settle and suddenly school didn’t seem as daunting as before, especially when two students came up to me, introduced themselves and asked me all about where I was from. After about 30 minutes of going over general school rules, we were dismissed for the day.
Barbora waited for me and we went to go get coffee and food with her friends who are going off to university later this month. I decided to indulge in some food that reminded me of home, so I ate a pasta dish and it helped ease some of the lingering homesickness I still had.
I am very pleased to report that the second day of school was even better than the first, because I got to know my classmates even more. They were all interested in learning about my life and were helping me adjust to their daily routine. One of my English classes is a speaking class taught by an Irish man. It was very strange to hear a native English speaker (but refreshing) and he gave me some tips as someone who is also a foreigner. An interesting thing about my school, is that we don’t have lunchtime. We have a 20 minute break between 3rd and 4th period (I have 7 in total) and we eat a snack we bring from home, or you can buy a snack at the little store down near the school cafeteria. You eat lunch when you get out of school, either in the cafeteria, at a cafe in the center of Martin (which is a 2 minute walk), or at home. I don’t have the same classes or schedule every day (although I start at 8:00AM every day) so on Mondays and Wednesdays I get out at 2:25, on Tuesdays and Fridays I get out at 1:30, and Thursdays I get out at 12:25. I haven’t ventured into the school cafeteria quite yet, so I have no opinion on their food, but stay tuned. When I got home from school, I immediately went to take a nap, and unsurprisingly, didn’t wake up until the next morning when it was time for school. Like I said, jet lag is real, it had its claws in me and didn’t intend on letting go.
After school yesterday, Barbora and her boyfriend Milan took me to a lookout that allowed you see the whole town of Martin and all the surrounding mountains. It was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, and I was reminded of how lucky I am to be able to have such a unique experience in such a beautiful country.
I am also steadily progressing in my learning of the Slovak language. I have vocabulary of about a two year old. I can say “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” “thank you,” “nice to meet you,” “yes,” “no,” about half of the colors, and I can also count to ten. And if that doesn’t impress you, then congratulations, you have joined the majority.