Conversation Partner: Age 73

This is actually a photo taken by my friend Noemi on
my second lunch date with Marie.
I never imagined my Czech prospective conversation partner to be 73 years old.  Yesterday, I had the unexpected pleasure of spending 3 hours with a nearly complete stranger who only spoke Czech.  I had left church and was walking toward my tram stop.  As I went to check the tram times, I noticed an elderly woman looking at me as if she were going to speak.  Finally, she spoke, and I replied with a "prominte."  I was about to launch into my typical, "I only speak a little Czech; I'm new here," but then I understood that she was a woman from the church.  We chatted a little bit (only in Czech).  I told her where I lived, how long I'd been here, what I was doing, which schools I was teaching at--the usual.

We happened to take the same tram and we continued to talk.  She was very patient with me, speaking in slow Czech phrases--though not really limiting her vocabulary.  We talked about our families.  I talked about my nieces and nephew.  She spoke about her grandchildren and children.  Then she invited me to have lunch with her in her home.  I accepted.  Then I asked her what her name was.   I then began praying for some divine understanding and breaking of any communication gap.  I think I do have some talents in the area of being able to understand body language and broken English quite well, but I don't have the gift of speaking in tongues.  I felt that I had nearly exhausted everything I could say comfortably when we still had a 15 minute tram ride and a lunch left.

I was thankful for her talkativeness.  It made my awkward, drawn-out sentences fewer and further between.  When we arrived in her flat, I removed my boots and accepted the slightly-too-small house sandals from her.  She then asked my name.  After uttering "Charity" and explaining that it meant love, she gave me a pained look--as if prophesying the difficulty of such a name.  So I told her my Czech colleagues sometimes call me Bohumila (Boh means God and milý means nice or dear--one colleague said it could mean lover of God).  She readily accepted this name and welcomed me into her home.  She showed me photos of her children and artwork by her grandchildren.  I sat in the kitchen with her as she made fresh mashed potatoes, and I learned all about her family--time they had spent in Israel, her daughter's work for Amnesty International, her daughter's study in the USA, her "American" grandchildren, her husband's dear character, and his unfortunate death.

Once we settled into lunch, we had a pretty typical Czech meal.  After prayer and a "dobrou chut" (bon appetite), we began with dumpling and vegetable soup.  Afterwards we had potatoes and some kind of meat (I think chicken)--she gave me the choice of grilled or fried.  We had some tomatoes on the side as well as a lovely side of homemade applesauce with chunks of pear and half a canned apricot.  Then she served coffee made in a French press and some Czech pastry.  It was quite the meal, and it was followed by quick journeys through multiple photo albums.  By the time we got to the photo albums, her speed of speech had increased exponentially--or perhaps my brain had just slowed.

Her hospitality was heart-warming.  I had missed being around the older generation.  Moreover, due to my kitchen situation, I stick to fairly simple (and often cold) meals.   Yet she apologized for being a "bad hostess," explaining that it would have been different if she'd invited me in advance rather than while on the tram together.  However, I couldn't have been more pleased.  As she really spoke no English, I had to manage with my Czech, and I was very warmed by her hospitality.  She also made the comment that it's always better to dine in company.  As she is a widow, she lives alone.  Some of her children live in the region, but she seemed to really appreciate my company, even if my Czech is quite meager. 

I had to leave for some other obligations, and she walked me home--first packing up a couple pastries for me to take along.  Apparently my dormitory is along the route of her daily walk.  She suggested sharing her phone number with me so that we can go on walks together.  Walking was just one of the things we found that we have a common liking for.  The others included knitting and reading.   I am a bit sad to know that I won't be at church on Sunday due to traveling for the holiday.  However, I hope to speak with her again when I return--hopefully with more Czech at my disposal.


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