Who is the man?

Working in a small town can make you feel like the man. You know, the man who walks down the street and says “Hey what’s happening?” to every second person. Or maybe it’s more like the opening of Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, with the main character saying hello to everyone. There’s no singing my version. Definitely no singing by me.

Yesterday, I walked out of the school, in the centre of Skoczów, at twenty after eight. I ran right into one of my old students. Her group finished their class a month ago so they could all take their matura exam: a big, stressful multi-day exam that all Polish high-school students must pass. I was preparing her group for the English language part of the exam. She did okay. Her brother, who was also in my class, didn’t do very well on the writing part. I can get all teacherly about that and say “That’s what you get when do don’t hand in any of your writing assignments.” Let that be a lesson for all you kids out there. Happily, the brother did do well on his speaking component.

After saying good-bye to my student, I went to check out the town square. This weekend features Skoczów Days, a celebration of the town, whose charter is around six times older than Canada’s constitution. In some ways the fair was a typical a small town do. It had an inflatable play-pen that the little ones could bounce around in. There were small sketchy rides, greasy foods and beer tents. Last night the main stage featured high school singing and dancing acts and a cake eating contest. On Sunday night, it would see a rock group who’s heyday was sometime in the late seventies and early eighties. Kind of like Trooper playing Festival Days in Port Perry.

I ran into one of my adult students, his wife—who is also the secretary at my school—and their five year-old son. They bought me a beer to go with my kiełbasa and fries. That student is getting an ‘A.’ (Let that also be a lesson to you kiddies.) The band played an old Silesian folk classic. Everybody in the audience new the words and the actions. My student translated the chorus, “Where is this street? Where is this house? Where is this girl that I love?” My student is a proud Silesian. Not quite a separatist, but he definitely thinks of himself as Silesian and not Polish.

With my kiełbasa and beer taken care of, I had to run for the bus to Cieszyn. Usually, I flirt with eye-strain on the bus by reading, but last night I ran into a old teacher from my school. She switched to another private school so I haven’t seen her in months. As we were chatting we found out that we both knew this one Brit living in Cieszyn. She said his accent was hard to understand and I simply added that the British do speak funny.

I didn’t run into anyone I knew on the walk home from the bus stop.

You can’t always be the man.

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