Sunday, October 28, 2007

Perfect Movie Moment

There are times in our lives when everything seems too perfectly perfect--too well staged, too well lit, too well written to be happening in mere life. Perfect Movie Moments.

Here's one of mine. It's a longish story, with the Perfect Movie Moment at the end.

I was teaching Conversational English in the brand-new Republic of Slovakia, which had split from the Czech Republic about two weeks before my arrival. I was posted to a small village, all by myself, after two days of orientation with about thirty other people. During my stay, I spent most of my weekends traveling around Eastern Europe or visiting orientation-friends who were living in more interesting towns than mine. Making such plans was always tricky, as few of us had phones (in my town, the only phone option was to place calls in the public booths in the post office), and there was no such thing (yet) as email. Most of the time, we communicated by telegram, which was charmingly old-fashioned and occasionally hopeless, since a Slovak functionary who didn't speak English had to transcribe the message on both ends.

Most of the teachers in our program were either fresh out of college or recently retired. At just-about-to-turn-30, I was one of the oddballs. There were two others like me, and I clung to them for dear life.

Deep in the wintertime, one of the recent retirees sent word that the spa in the town to which she had been posted would allow her to bring in a group of us for the Full Treatment. This resulted in the first and only reunion of our entire group.

Piestany, the spa town, was renowned for the curative effects of its waters. Or, if you wanted to be cynical about it, it was what was available to most people, given the deplorable state of health care in the country.

But people did believe. Witness the statue that stands outside the spa.

We arrived en masse, and our charming host billeted us at various places around the town. I stayed with my fellow oddballs at someone's flat--I can't remember whose. We ate and drank and had a fine old time, the first night, and woke up early the next morning to face The Treatment.

The spa treatment we received was as follows:

1. mineral bath
2. mud bath
3. lie under a heat lamp, wrapped in tin foil
4. brutal massage by a former Olympic wrestler
5. shower.

The mud bath was by far the oddest part of the treatment. Boys and girls were sequestered, then led into giant, domed rooms with shallow pools of warmish mud. We bathed there naked. Now this was strange on a number of levels at the same time. In the first place, I had never seen any of my colleagues, male or female, in the nude--nor was I expecting to do so on this day. Secondly, bathing in shallow, warm mud (clothed or naked) is just...strange. Bathing naked, in shallow, warm mud, with near-strangers, is massively strange.

Well, all inhibitions aside (and I assure you, by the end of all of this Thing they were aside), the whole treatment felt wonderful. When we exited the spa into the bright winter day, we all felt inhumanly relaxed, at peace, and light on our feet. We walked through town and found a place to eat lunch. Then someone suggested that we take a walk in the woods.

This is how good the damned treatment felt: a bunch of wussy westerners was willing to walk through the woods--in Eastern Europe--in February--without a moment's hesitation.

Our charming hostess knew of a road that went up into a hill and out the other side, onto a road that would lead back to town. So off we hiked.

The road was rural but not deserted. There were small houses and farms all along the way, all silent and snow-covered, with smoke curling out of chimneys. At one house, we saw a man standing on the roof, sweeping snow down to the ground. He waved to us cheerfully, and we happily waved back--cheer having been something we were finding in short supply throughout that country.

The hike went on much longer than any of us had anticipated, and were were all starting to wonder if it would end on the promised road or, perhaps, a gingerbread house occupied by a hungry witch. Eventually, though, we did emerge from the woods onto a road. Across from us was a roadhouse, small and quaint, but open--which pleased us all immensely, as we were cold and hungry and thirsty.

We walked in, sat down, and started to warm up, little realizing that all eyes were upon us. Clearly, this wasn't the kind of place that out-of-town tourists frequented. But the surprise and curiosity led to friendliness rather than hostility, and very soon we were everybody's best friends. A small band started to play, and everyone started to sing. Somehow, we were all just drunk enough to sing along in a language we barely knew. This scored us even more points with the local crowd.

We stayed until closing time, which was right at sunset, and walked out with the patrons and the musicians to wait for the local bus to take us back to town. We all piled on the bus, whereupon the musicians struck up once again and everyone started singing--musicians, former bar patrons, bus passengers, and us. And when the bus arrived in town, we followed the band to their next gig--all of us--a twilight parade through the wintry streets of Piestany.

Well, that's my story. If you've had a similar "this could have (or should have) been in a movie" moment, add it below in comments, why doncha? I'd love to hear it.

1 comment:

konhEm said...

Hello from Piestany :) It`s nice to read common blog-post by common stranger about my town..