On my way to lunch in the school cafeteria (the only day I get to enjoy such a luxury), I heard two Czech men speaking loudly. My foreigner instincts told me that they were attempting to communicate with me. I paused in the light rain and shouted “czescki ne” at them. They must not have heard, because they raised their voices, started to gesticulate wildly while walking closer to me.

For whatever reason I decided that they were trying to tell me something about my bag, maybe a zipper open or something. No, no open pocket with my wallet hanging out. The two men were close now and quite excited that I was looking at my bag. One man was probably in his mid to late 40’s with a hand rolled cigarette while the other was a gap-toothed 60+er. The gap-toothed gentleman was doing a scribbiling motion in the air.

“Aha! They must want paper”. I thought to myself as I repeated my “czescki ne” phrase. As I pulled out my notebook, the older man grabbed the pen and wrote down the telephone number of the other man.

As the gap-toothed man handed my back my pen, he asked where I was from by listing towns and cities in England. I responded with Chicago, Illinois…Of course I am not from Chicago or near Chicago, but it is the biggest and most well known city in my state. I also did not feel like going into the whole “Simpsons? Oh Simpsons!!” conversation which is the curse of being from one of the many Springfields in the US.

His eyes lite up and he breathed “America!” with a big grin splitting his face and displaying his lack of teeth. Straightening himself he began to recite a poem. Or at least I assume it was a poem. It had the cadence of a poem. A few smiling nods into it, I came to the conclusion that he was in fact reciting a poem in English. It was the logical explanation from the flow of the conversation as well as the distinct lack of any Czech sounds.

A good few minutes later he came to the end of his recital and smiling looked at me for approval. Of course I gave him a thumbs up, a big smile and a “super!” He then continued on his way with a new swing in his step and a confident “Hi!” I think I made that gentleman’s day. I at least I hope I did.

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