Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jsem Romsky Ted'

There is a growing shadow.  It's casting its increasing darkness over our Czech experience.  Almost eight months have lapsed... two thirds done.  It will inevitably elude us, just as the already, has been year.  Bound for blank stares out two panes of Plexiglas Lufthansa window, down on what was my greatest learning experience.  I'm broken just thinking about our, to be tears. Like a boy, waiting for the Principal to call him into his office to discuss punishment.

My thoughts are populated by many things we'll soon be without.  Far greater than our absence from the relics of a land littered with an unfathomable history, is the people who've become family. 

I'll give you one story, perhaps my greatest moment here. While working at one of the two Romani childrens centers, called Körnerova, a seven year old boy named Santino accepted me properly. Playing the game 'Telephone,' where a word whispered is passed the full distance of the circle.  Each person is supposed to make sense of what they heard and keep it moving.  Of course, the best part of the game is looking at what the word transforms into based off either miscommunication or wild running imaginations.

In this case, Santi started the round with a word in his native Romani language.  I never did figure out the word's meaning, I just know it brought a thunderous laugh from his friends.  Once the fury settled a bit and the attention had turned from Santi, I asked "To slovo, co znamena?" (the word, what does it mean?)

Still stood up from the last bit of excitement, he leaned on to me as I sat cross-legged, and said with one eye squinting, "It was in Romani language." He then leaned off me, and said as though it should be news for me, "I am Romani."

"Ja vim" (I know) I said.  He then looked at me for what seemed like ten seconds with his impressive half grin, both hands full of the respective side of my unzipped hoodie.

With what looked like a barely acquired bit of courage he told me,  "Jsi Romsky taky" (You're Romani too).

I told him, "YEEEEAAAAH, of course!" Before I'd gotten it all out, he had jumped wrapping his arms around me, giving me one of the more authentic hugs I remember. 

He's not usually talking like that. I've grown close enough to Santino to recognize the legitimacy and rarity of such a situation.  It was an infinite moment. Pure and cemented into what this place will always mean to me!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Seperate and Unequal

A beautiful gypsy girl sat before me yesterday, telling of a common moment of hatred.  Kačí, as she prefers over Kačenka, answered a loaded question about people who treat her bad at school, with lost eyes.  I read confusion,and dejection with ease from the 7 year old girl. She spoke with lowered brow about a boy who tells her she's a 'stupid gypsy' as though obligation.  My prepared response about how we ought to smother people like this with kindness and learn to live above such hatred only sounded assuming.  The fact is, I'm a white boy from California and Kačí is one of the few 'lucky' gypsies allowed to go to a white school. 

Ever wonder what the fate of the U.S. would of amounted to if the 1890 Louisiana law, "Separate, but equal" would of held up?  Want a taste of  pre-Mandela South Africa under the weight of apartheid?  The Czech Republic's lack of action, in breaking down the walls of segregation and Jim Crow-ism, is seemingly prehistoric.  I stand in the middle of it all, invisible and broken-hearted.

The fact is, I shouldn't even call them 'Gypsy.' I've heard many times now, "Gypsy is developing into a bad word."  I hear it's used in regards to anyone who steals, or isn't educated!  Let's equate it with the "N" word, in the United States.  That punch in the stomach of a word.  A tool for creating divide and ensuring the nationals their superiority.  The Romani people, as they are properly referred to, suffer varying degrees of the same fate all over Europe. Who knew that the Romani people were the victims of attempted genocide by the Nazis during WWII?

I wish I were more powerful, spoke brilliant Czech and had the secret for promoting a more unified Czech Republic.  I don't.