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A Letter From Slovakia

Boy Meets Slovakia

By James B. Williams

25 September 2017

SLOVAKIA -- Hello all! I wanted to wait until one of these days to write you all because I just got back from my first District Orientation for 2240, Czech Republic and Slovakia’s District! But I will talk about that later because I have more to tell you!

Last time I had my first days of school! During that time we had a shortened schedule because it was the beginning of the year and our cafeteria was still under construction. We had the shortened schedule for 2 weeks! Then we moved on to the normal schedule and began the regular school day, which is different than everywhere I know of in the US. Their schedule works in days. On Monday I have a certain schedule and it is the same for every Monday, this works for every day of the week. My situation is a bit different from the regular students in that I do not go to 2 extra classes, that are after my school day, I can but I have chosen not to because I would like to spend that time doing sports or other activities around Piešťany. Speaking of activities I will start to play hockey!  Robert Paradi (pear uh dy) is my main teacher who handles all of my classes documents and information and trips is a hockey coach! His team has kids who are 14, 15, 16 and the hockey club is providing most equipment for me! For now I won’t be playing in games only practice, but I am excited to start.  I will buy a stick and get to play! For now this is great. My classmates are all awesome. They were really shy at first and I had to make the first interactions but now we talking more and I really like them. I really would like to do more with them and learn more about the culture of Slovakia and my town.

Other activities I have been up to: My town had a film festival! It happens every year and it lasts for a week! It’s called Cinematik, I went to a few movies with some Spoluziacky (school mates) and it was very nice because the weather was rainy during those weeks. I saw 4 movies, I don’t remember all the names but I saw 3 French and one from the US. One movie was hard to follow because it was in French and only had Czech titulky(subtitiles), I am glad I went anyways because it was a new experience. The US movie was in English with Slovak subtitles, the others were French with English, Czech or Slovak subtitles. It was really fun to go to the movies. (To the left are my 2 classmates and I) 

Also I have now seen 3 castles! Two were with my family and the 3 other exchange students from Piešťany. Actually they were the ruins of castles and one of the castles is where the legend of Bloody Mary was started! It was cool to gallivant around the ruins and sometimes climb around for a better view of the surroundings. Also of the 3 that I have seen they are all on top of some sort of hill, I am starting to see a pattern here. But I still want to explore even more! Slovakia has the most castles per capita in the world! On my Facebook page I have pictures and I will gladly add anyone who would like to see!

^Trenčiansky hrad - Trenčin castle            ^Čachtický hrad - Čachtice castle                                <Tematínsky hrad - Tematín castle         

So now I have a bit of a funny story I would like to share. It was very warm here during the first few weeks and after school my little host brother Simon would strip off down to his underwear when we got home! I thought he was being a typical 12 year old who wants to be free of everything, as I was! But that was just the first day… Then it happened again… and again…. And on the 3rd day I finally asked him what he was doing and he just gave me a funny look. Then I talked to my host mom and asked what Simon was doing? This was in my broken Slovak as well so it took some time for me to fully understand and when I did my mind was blown. While talking to my mom she told me it was normal. That they were home and they could do what they wanted, not only is this normal in all of Slovakia, it is very common! Eventually I learned that my mom and my dad would normally be in boxers and just her bra and shorts if I wasn’t there. For a few minutes I couldn’t wrap my head around it but then I realized that they are home, this is their place and people do what they want here and it is just more common, I bet in America, maybe even some of you reading this have done the same! For me it was a pretty big culture shock but thankfully the weather got warmer and my brother kept his clothes on. :P

1 October 2017

Now onto my first orientation! It was so fun to meet all the other exchange students in the district. There are about 90 of us in all both countries! It is a lot of people! Everyone was so happy to be there and I made a lot of friends and some good ones already. The weekend was really busy and the Rotex and District members prepared a lot for us to do. We didn’t have much free time to ourselves and it was a little disheartening because we wanted to do more together. We did get to see a castle and that was really fun to explore! It was called Trenčiansky hrad (Trenčin Castle) very original being that we were in the town of Trencin. But we were together the whole weekend and through the presentations we learned a lot about rules on travel, the 4 Ds, and about Slovakia and Czechia. I’m kind of sad I won’t see my friends in Czechia until the Ski Week in the winter but we have more Slovak-only meetings which will be great!  We also had a test on our language skills! I wasn’t very worried for the test, I believed in my Slovak skills and got the highest grade possible, a 1! The scale is 1-2-3-4-5, 1 being best and 5 being worst. It was a very basic test with not very much on it only basic phrases and words. I will have another test on Slovak in December where I hope to again get a 1! But overall it was an awesome weekend where I was very excited to meet everyone! 

I am in in the top row to the left of center. :)

Also I am playing hockey now! I was able to sort everything out and I have all my gear and I bought some inexpensive skates. I’m really happy to be playing, I will be going to practices with a team of 13,14,15 year olds (I found out later that they are a bit younger) but I like it. It is only 4 days a week, perfect for what I would like to do. I don’t need to go every practice and it’s not going to be a huge time commitment. The club lent me gear to use for the time I will play. The boys on the team are really funny and nice they like me a lot.

Yesterday I went to Jánošíkove diery! It is a hiking park with lots of trails and beautiful views! I have a lot of pictures on my Facebook if you would like to see them. It was so beautiful. The mountains here are similar to the Adirondacks and now with fall coming and the leaves changing it was very beautiful. ‘Ono bolo vel’mi krasne’.

            I’m really enjoying my time here in Slovakia and I’m very thankful that I found the program and all that Rotary is doing for me.  I can’t wait for more adventures and stories to share with everyone!


James G. Williams 


James G. Williams 

James Williams is a 2017 graduate of Geneva High School. He is spending a gap year in Slovakia, sponsored by the Geneva Rotary Club and its relationship with Rotary International. He will report on his experiences from time to time for Geneva Now.

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