Everything is suddenly easy again

Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
Trip End Sep 19, 2006

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Flag of Slovakia  ,
Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Given that there is no phone in my room, the hotel can't (or won't) give me a wake up call. I was worried that I would somehow sleep in late and miss my joyful rendezvous with Jane, who is flying in from Toronto, at the airport. Accordingly, I wake up basically every half hour during the night and check my watch. At around 6am, as the hotel and neighbouring apartment blocks stir noisily into their weekday motion, I figure I'll just get up and go. By the time the taxi drives me around the corner to the airport, I am in the arrivals lounge and it is only 7:15am. Jane's flight is due to arrive at 10.

In the fullness of time, 10 o'clock rolls around and Jane and I are reunited after our longest period apart - nearly three weeks. Following the usual hugs, kisses and "I missed yous", Jane says solemnly: "I have something to show you". Still laden with her backpack and daypack, she drops to one knee, produces a ring and says "Jim, will you marry me?" Keen readers will recall that I lost my wedding band on the first day of my cricket tour in the long weeds of the Bleddington Cricket Club field, so Jane's is an extremely thoughtful, touching and romantic gesture. I pretend to mull over her proposal for a few seconds and then happily accept, amidst the nonplussed glances of glum Bratislavans picking up equally unemotional friends and relatives.

Life suddenly seems so much easier. For example, we need tickets for the bus ride back to the train station. "Oh, it's really difficult", I say, knowingly, relating my experience from yesterday. Unintenionally discrediting me, Jane approaches a grumpy-looking man in a kiosk and asks, in her native Slovak, for some change for the bus. "Ah, don't worry", he replies jovially in English, "I can sell you tickets right now". Jane completes the transaction in English, throws me a "well, what are you waiting for?" smile as the bus comes around the corner and we board with exasperating ease.

Then, at the train station, we painlessly buy tickets for the train to the tiny village of Krivan where Jane's parents live, and it is scheduled to leave conveniently soon. Jane seems to have that magic touch where everything appears simple.

The plan today is to surprise Jane's parents, who have absolutely no idea that we are coming. They knew that I was going to England and Slovenia but Jane had told them that, regrettably, I wouldn't have time to come to Slovakia. In fact, she had called them earlier that day from Toronto and mentioned that she was just off to pick me up from the airport - but they thought she meant Toronto airport, not Bratislava. When we arrive in Krivan, we walk to Jane's house and sneak up to the door, but her parents are out. We wait for a while then hatch a plan with the next door neighbour to lure them home. The neighbour calls Jane's dad's cell phone and tells him that the chickens have escaped in the backyard, so they cut short their grocery shopping and race home in a panic. As Jane's mum comes sprinting round to the back garden, Jane and I appear from behind the chicken coop, clucking and walking like chickens. It is corny but it does the trick and the parents stand in a state of shock for about five minutes before gradually realising what's going on.

After a winding-down and settling-in period, we decide to jump in the car and drive to Jane's brother's house and scare the shit out of him too. That works a treat as well, so we have five family members quietly repeating "Jezusi Kriste" and shaking their heads.

Wednesday, September 6

After all yesterday's stress, today is a gentle, relaxing day with Jane's family. Like any day with Jane's family, it requires an inhuman amount of eating, starting with a table almost spilling over with breakfast. Agenda items for today include sorting out our stuff for this weekend's wedding, getting me a haircut, walking around a little nearby village that apparently has a new church, and stopping to chat with every second person, who gleefully recognises Jane, the village's prodigal daughter.

Each of these activities seems to be followed up with some kind of meal. Eventually, when everything is accomplished, the whole family goes out for dinner.
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