I should totally not be blogging right now, but today I got my first visitors from a country I have not been to, Ukraine (Ласкаво просимо!) and a country that I have been to, Slovakia (vitajte!).
In January 2012, I got to spend two wonderful weeks in cold, wintry Slovakia (which was not nearly as cold as it is here at the moment, -6 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill of don’t-even-tell-me degrees Fahrenheit) with Dramatic Adventure Theatre. Jesse and Mary, who have been running this program for a decade now, are fantastic people and I can’t wait until I have the chance to travel on one of their trips again. I went with them to Ecuador as a part of ACTion: Ecuador in 2009 (three weeks after I graduated from UMass!) and was thrilled when I was chosen to be a part of their team in Slovakia. Based on that trip, I made connections and received the inspiration for my thesis, but this post isn’t about that.
Of all the memories and stories from both DAT trips, the one that stands out to me happened on one of our final days on the trip, and didn’t have anything to do with theatre or travel. We were staying at a privat (hotel) in the town of Zdiar, a resort town in the High Tatra mountains, doing independent writing/artistic projects, and preparing for the trip home. My days in Zdiar were usually spent exploring the town with Richard, our group’s translator and my roommate for the trip. One day we were walking back from somewhere (I think it might’ve been the day we discovered the secret resort hotel, but that’s another story) and we had been walking for quite awhile. It was getting late, and my legs were so tired. Our hotel sat sort of in the middle of a hill; to get into the town, you walked up a steep path towards the houses/restaurants/businesses, and to get down the road leading out of town, you walked down a steep path directly parallel to the first. This created a pretty sheer and severe drop, getting up to several stories high, and as it was winter, it was covered in snow. As we passed some children playing with sleds and riding them together down the cliff of snow, I wondered what it would be like to do it. I wanted to slide down the hill too. It sure beat walking. I asked Richard if he wanted to do it with me; he said no, that I had a backpack full of souvenirs (true) and that we didn’t even have sleds (true) so how would we get down the hill? Then, I dared him to go down the cliff on his bottom, and then I realized that that method of nudging does not work in Slovakia. Maybe he would do it if I went first.
“I’m going to do it.”
I looked out over a drop of at least four stories, then took my backpack off my back and strapped it to my front. “I’m going to do it,” I said, once more, as he looked at me, incredulous. “Those little kids just did it on their sleds; I can do it without one.” He still didn’t believe me until I crouched on the ground, then sat and scooted to the edge of the cliff. “Last chance, Richard, come on, do it with me!”
I waited a few seconds, then wrapped my arms around my bag and pushed off the cliff.
Richard couldn’t believe it, and neither could I.
I started off with my eyes closed, but opened them when I started to pick up speed, whipping through the snow. It was incredible. I could hear the roar of the spirit of the avalanche (or maybe just my coat causing friction) and I watched as the scene skewed itself, as if the mountains were moving upward as I landed on my feet, standing in knee deep snow, and now at the bottom of the hill. I dusted myself up and shrieked with delight, I looked up at Richard, waving at him to come down.
He just shook his head and moved away from the edge, continuing down the hill on the same path, whereas I had chosen The Path Less Traveled. Or at least less traveled by crazy grownups. After I checked my bag to make sure I hadn’t broken anything, I proceeded up the less-steep lower path.
And that’s how I beat Richard back to the hotel.