My Slovakia: Claudette is a Peace Corps volunteer and commuting parishoner at the Maly Kostal in Bratislava.

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My Slovakia: Claudette is a Peace Corps volunteer and commuting parishoner at the Maly Kostal in Bratislava.

My Slovakia: Claudette is a Peace Corps volunteer and commuting parishoner at the Maly Kostal in Bratislava.

Claudette is a Peace Corps volunteer and commuting parishoner at the Maly Kostal in Bratislava.

She invited us out to visit, so we finally did.

There is snow in the hills that is not showing in the picture.

Thu Nov 11 1999 5:33 PM - Pete-Ordways-Rules-Of-Survival

What follows below is a set of basic survival rules expoused by Pete Ordway, Barb's step father. Pete has survived his entire adult working life at the New York State Department of Transportation where these rules have been developed and put into practical practice to help him cope with human insanity.

I share them with you with his permission in case you need some help surviving your current situation. Caution though, over-application abuse of these rules could fatally crush the spirit and will to live, in most mere mortals, so use sparingly. Pete himself underwent a successful triple bypass some 2 years ago after 20 some years of NYDOT employment where these rules were developed and tested, so don't take them lightly.

Pete Ordway's Rules of Survival


1. Don't offer anything.

2. Keep a copy of everything.

3. No Hunting (of Wild Animals) no taking potshots no badmouthing anyone, especially the boss

4. No emotional attachment (to the field) boss's agenda is not the field's agenda

5. No intellectual protection of the field make the field do stupid things anyway

6. No concurrent vacations

7. If you make it through 1-6, be positive in everything.

There are many corollaries and sub themes that can be developed from these basic survival rules.

Every time we visit Pete and get his views on the world, he analyzes where he went wrong with these rules, and where others might be going wrong in their working lives. "Thats a rule X violation" or "Thats a corollary of rule 4" are often heard around the kitchen table as we explain the quandaries of our lives on Earth.

This morning Barbara checked herself against these rules while making a casual comment about returning to Slovakia. "Thats a rule 1 violation", came out too casually from the half awake Barbara as she thinks about how to expand her role and ministry in Slovakia. So I decided it was time to have these rules documented for all. Please use them for emergency situations only, change your situation before they become your way of life.

Thank you, Pete.

Sat Dec 18 1999 10:28 PM - Great-Skate-Date-With-Kate-Slate

Barb and I went ice skating today at "Zimmny Stadion" with Kate, a fifth year student at the Lyceum. I brought our beaten up skates to Slovakia after Barb's grandmother's funeral, so we've been ready for this day a while.

The Slovaks love hockey, and hence skating is well respected and represented here. Unfortunately, its very tough to rent skates, Zimmny Stadion even has a coat check but no rentals. Kate helped me get a ticket to wait in line to have my skates sharpened, a queue that took me 30 minutes or so to get through. Kate and Barb waved to me as they turned lap after lap on the smooth hard ice.

Unlike US rinks, no one seemed to be in charge or enforcing the rules. A lack of a "skate patrol" allowed rampaging youth to buzz all around and in between, extremely recklessly and loving it. I must be getting old because it sort of made me grumpy and irritable to get cut off so much - if I wanted this much bumping and colliding, I'd go to Tesco thank you very much. Barb and I anticipated that the Slovak personal space issue would mean much packing of people together, and we were not disappointed.

The "Zamboni" machine came out 90 minutes into the skate time, about 45 minutes after I finally got onto the ice with my sharpened skates. They don't have "Zambonis" in Slovakia, they just call them some sort of ice machine according to Kate. We had tea and potato chips before getting back onto the ice, where a fresh wave of youth tore up the place some more. Its really amazing how few accidents and tumbling there seemed to be - it was not "beginner's" day or anything, since most people could skate and a rope cordoned off a corner of the rink for the really little kids to practice standing and such. I guess like tail-gating traffic, skating in herds turns into a sort of dance like flow, a chaotic order where most of the particles always sort of repel each other at the last instant as they move about the track.

Barb got cold and we decided to go home. The rink had a roof, but the sides were open to the air, and the ice added to the chill. We went to the coat/bag check to retrieve our things, then changed out of the skates and loaded onto the bus. We drank cocoa with Kate before she left to visit her grandmother up the street.

Kate is a hockey fan, and Barb and I hope to learn how to go see a game. Slovak TV follows the NHL as part of their normal sport reports, and they list the nationality (Czech or Slovak) of the players on the NHL team that scored that night. I am betting that seeing a live game will be a crazy spectacle.

Fri Jan 07 2000 10:58 PM - Y2K-in-Slovakia

We have returned! There is snow here now in Slovakia. We arrived before noon, after spending the night on an overnight train that ran from Zurich, Switzerland to Vienna, Austria. A tram ride from the West Bahnhof that (serves "Western Europe") to the Sud Bahnhof (does Eastern Europe), we took a foggy ride across the snow in Austria to Bratislava. Home.

Through breaks in the white fog, we saw big rabbits running around on the snow, then trees, and then everything would disappear into the white fog on the white ground to repeat the cycle over again. It was sort of weird, like life often is. Snow and ice on the sidewalks, muddy streets and bus floors greeted us. All the Christmas lights are down, except in out apartment. Barbara is already asking for a "dance party" for her birthday in February, and intends to have the lights up until at least then. Whatever.

We fought the mobs at Tesco, apparently the only store open. The entire frozen pizza section was decimated, only the more expensive varieties left over in the corners. The vegetables also were noticeably sparse, the result of Y2K or just everyone mobbing the store, I don't know. The ATM machines were apparently up and working too, despite the rumors we heard about them being shut down for all of January.

Slovak is hard to get used to again. The words just don't pop to mind like they were for me in Dutch and German. The opposite is true for Barbara, who gabbed away with cashiers and personnel at the store at Tesco who all just looked at her and started in with the Slovak as if she's been there forever. Maybe Barb looks tired, everyone looks tired and sort of glum. Post holiday depression maybe, or perhaps its the cold. For Barb it was the top bunk of the night train, swinging left and right, pushing her blood to her feet then head in disturbing ways, making her sleep restless.

I slept surprisingly well on the train, the only interruption was from our Germanic bunky, an ageless stocky blonde woman between 24 and 42 that scowled and grunted at us every waking moment in our 4 person sleeper. When I tried to introduce myself "ich hiese Todd", I got a loud "Uph" and nothing more. She did talk though, gabbing on a cell phone when Barb and I showed up at 10:20pm to claim our bunks. Sometime in the night as I slept, I got a loud "Bitte, something something I tried so hard to remember to look up" from her, and I slept in small paranoid fits that it was ME snoring, farting or doing something otherwise offensive, something I feared our train roomie would do to us! To be fair, she did smile at me when she grabbed her stuff and left the train car, Barb and I staying out of her way as she jumped up and out into the crisp Vienna air. Our 4th roomie showed up to dump off her luggage before leaving Zurich, but then disappeared until the morning when she showed back up to take it away. Who knows where she slept, she wandered in shortly after the loud 7am breakfast call, took her mineral wasser and cup, and huddled outside the carriage. I think she was afraid of the tough blonde too. The welcome aboard was some German guy taking our tickets and passport, with the same guy whipping the door open and pushing trays of muffins and hot tea water into our faces. I woke and was afraid Barb would not respond to such a wake up (she doesn't for me at least) and I had a vision of scalding tea water raining down on my face below as my catatonic spouse refused the Germanic Gut Morgen. But as I started this foray, she wasn't sleeping in her usual, iron slumber.

The sleeper car was a weird experience all in all. All the trains were, and the number and length of our stretches on the trains got old quickly. Train riding is pretty pricey - our Interrail tickets were 700 dollars and we still paid another 82 Swiss Francs for the sleeper, and another 84 Swiss Francs for the cog-wheel train up mount Rigi. Confused? Me too, read on.

Thu Mar 09 2000 10:14 AM - Hash-Weekend

I had a busy weekend doing "Hash" activities. For the uninformed, the "Hashing" I am referring to is social club run where the course is unknown to the runners, who have to find and follow it. After the run, a beer party is held to commemorate any silliness that occurred during the hash. Its really just a big excuse to be social, be outside and drink beer.

On Saturday morning Barb and I got up to set the course in the Bratislava Hills that I had been planning for the last month. We used plastic spoon scoops of flour to mark the dashes, circles and X's that define a hash course. Dashes are good, circles are waiting spots and X's mean "bad trail".

It was cold and almost rainy, Barb whined and almost threw a fit about how long the course was. We then ran out of time in Horsky Park to Barb's delight, letting us get out of the cold. "Chopping out the heart of my hash" was my response to the shortened course.

At 1:30 we went back to the start to meet people. Folks from Vienna and Budapest showed up, and me as the the "hare" (person who sets the course) also had to take the beer money, make announcements and sign people in. A lot of work, but the run went well. It was cold and windy so people didn't mind the only 45 minute run that ended in a cozy little cafe at the far corner of the park. Beers and breadsticks later, we had to run everyone back to their cars (sober I hope), we took pictures and said goodbye. 17 people showed up, only 1 official Slovak among them.

The next day I met Marty (who skipped my hash on Saturday to go wedding church shopping) for a ride to the Vienna Hash. Barb had to do papers that afternoon so I took the opportunity to see how other international hash groups do their runs. The Vienna Hash had a lot of people. The course was totally different than mine, running up along a river and then back. The big time delay employed was the task of even FINDING the trail. The run was long too, big stretches of hard running, which spread people out for hundreds of meters. It was much more like an Ithaca hash I guess, herds of people wandering around on the path.

Big beer circle, outside in the freezing cold, followed the run. This was followed by going to a nearby restaurant for warmth and food. I sat across from a British guy nicknamed "No Mercy" who does electronic and computer work to fund his hobby of going to Hash runs all over the world, in places like Beirut, Bahrain and Australia. He uses the hash as instant community, getting invited to parties, flying people's airplanes, staying at their houses. His stories were pretty incredible and pretty darn likely. He went on to say that the crappier the country, the better the hashing because its such an important social event for the local English speaking population. So much for my thoughts of integrating the hash into Slovak culture. "No Mercy" had his Slovak girlfriend there too who practiced her English on me, but spoke German with "No Mercy". I tried Slovak back to her and her little brother, who knew some English and Slovak but no German. Quite a loop went on there, since I could understand the German too. Other hashers near me were all British of some sort living in Vienna, with all sorts of tails. I sat there and realized I was amongst adventurers, these people were the real deal as if out of a script. This "No Mercy" guy looked the part, big guy with buzz cut and buzz beard, piercing blue eyes. I think he had the real potential to be a dangerous person, the sort of person you want on your team but maybe not in your house. The name "No Mercy" is probably no accident. The world was the scope of these people, and maybe the British Empire in their tradition has made the world a small place to them for a long time. Value is not measured in wealth but what you have done and where you have been. I further realized that I am only a step or two behind them as both wonderful and weird in my current lifestyle. But I admit I am visiting, whereas they are living it.

The Bratislava Hash is going to loose lots of people back to the US. The long termers who have kept it going for as long as its been here. This was why I was thinking that it'd be great to get Slovak natives involved.

I would think Slovaks would love the Hash. Elements of sport, being outside in nature, being social with drinking and singing would be something that they'd adopt and take over as their own, but apparently its not that easy.

I guess I have to face my own "Englishness", maybe it is cultural for me to like running and being social and drinking a beer afterwards. The same silliness and fun I used to feel with track and cross country teams in school is still there for me, its why I am involved now. And I have the time.

Marty is going back to the states in December. I asked him if he thought it would be boring, the people, the places, just everything too easy after being here in the wild east for so long. He said it was a concern, as Arkansas is a potential place for his corporate relocation.

I felt pleased that I bought a Vienna Hash t-shirt then, because it is such a unique thing to have from such a far away place when I return to California, where I didn't hash because I had too much else going on. A hash in California would be extremely boring to "No Mercy".

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