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Crazy Men on the Trains


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Living in a foreign country in which you do not speak the language can be very frustrating and isolating. As a traveler, you might pick up a few useful words and phrases, or simply smile and shrug when someone speaks to you in a language you don't understand. But as an expat, this gets old after a while.

One morning as I am commuting to my morning class of pre-intermediate English learners, a crazy man is the center of attention on the tram. I quietly review my lesson across the aisle from an elderly Czech man wearing black Levi highwaters and a puffy blue coat. He has sat down next to a teen boy, who looked half-asleep before he was promptly nudged and spoken to by his new inadvertent travel companion.

I have been living and teaching in Prague for 4 months at this point, and I've taken some elementary Czech classes. According to the European system for measuring language mastery, I am still at a “true beginner” level, meaning that I understand basic polite words to mutter in most simple situations, such as an elevator ride. For example, when I enter the elevator, I say “dobry den” to whoever else is in there, because its simply too awkward to say nothing. When they motion towards the buttons, I say “ctyri, prosim,” (I am most impressed by my ability to communicate and effectively pronounce the number four without saying “pet menus jedno”). When the elevator companion leaves, they usually say “na shledanou,” a habit that Americans are confused by, because we normally do not say “goodbye” to people we haven't had an actual conversation with.

Anyway, on this morning tram ride, the boy that is minding his own business starts to giggle as the old crazy man is talking to him. The giggle descends into a full-laugh after a few minutes of seemingly random babbling. I cannot understand a single word the man is saying – my pre-intermediate students would understand more than this if it was them sitting on the T in the Boston. The teenager gets off the next tram stop. A young girl takes the now vacant seat next to the old man, and are driven away by his babbling chatter within seconds. An extremely tired looking woman sits down in the seat and leans her head against the window and ignores him when he is speaking to her. I have no idea what he is saying, and am prepared to pull out my “nerozumim” if he looks at me across the aisle, as if it is some Harry Potter spell to get psycho strangers off my back.

For a ride of 10 stops, I see about a dozen people reacting to this man in some physically repulsed way, and I can only imagine the dirty things he is saying. And that is what makes me homesick. Not being far from home, not being unable to understand menus, or using a pillow to fill the empty spot that my dog used to snuggle against my legs—no, I miss knowing what the crazy men on the train are saying.
Date of Listing: 23-November-2014 / 11:36:51
Category: Czech Guide Viewed: 1172 times
Author: eresnevic Listing Ref: 1837806130

Crazy Men on the Trains

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