Friday, October 16, 2009

All the Czech I Need to Know I Learned at the Convenience Store

“Odpouštím ti.”

This was my new favorite phrase in Czech. It meant, “I forgive you.” I discovered this on the wall of the contemporary art museum. Also at the museum, I found, “Na zázraky,” which meant, “I believe in miracles.” I collected these phrases though I could barely pronounce them.

I still gravitated towards the English bookstores in town,

not quite ready to browse the Czech titles at the main bookstores.

Without the language in Prague, I lacked a bridge to understanding.

If I spoke Czech, I could ask why this statue had a strange plasticine head over a metal body…

Or why the streets often wandered in the wrong directions…

…so that I ended up lost and surrounded by strange people.

I’d gone to the first week of Survival Czech, and learned how to say “I don’t know how to speak Czech,” but mostly I picked up words from reading signs and labels, often at the nonstop convenience store near the Hotel Pyramida, where many items were kept behind the counter.

I knew that “white” was “bílý” because I saw the word on my yogurt. Also, neperlivá was “still” in reference to water—another word learned at the convenience store. Banán was another convenience store word.

Most of the Czech I learned was in reference to food. While I ate my way through Prague, I picked up a few Czech words too…between bites.

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